AST SpaceMobile has secured an investment from Google and AT&T for its mobile phone service via satellites in low Earth orbit.
This marks the first investment from both Google and AT&T in AST SpaceMobile, with Vodafone having invested in the satellite company previously.
The funding announcement was made by AST SpaceMobile in a press release on Thursday, along with the initiation of a $100 million public offering of its shares on the same day.
AT&T and Vodafone have placed orders for AST SpaceMobile’s network equipment to support the planned commercial service.
Additionally, Google has agreed to collaborate on product development, testing, and the implementation of plans for SpaceMobile network connectivity on Android and related devices.
Starlink, SpaceX’s satellite internet service, has agreements with T-Mobile in the U.S. and various operators in other countries to offer satellite service to mobile phones. T-Mobile is expected to offer Starlink-enabled text messaging this year, with voice and data services starting in 2025.
AST SpaceMobile emphasizes that its satellite technology is designed to complement cellular networks in hard-to-reach areas, not to replace terrestrial infrastructure. In April 2023, the company announced the first bidirectional voice calls using the AST SpaceMobile test satellite with standard mobile phones.
By September 2023, AST SpaceMobile claimed to have established the first 5G connection between an unmodified everyday smartphone and a satellite in space, achieving a download speed of 14 Mbps.
The launch of the first five commercial operation satellites from AST SpaceMobile is expected before March 31, 2024, with manufacturing taking place at the company’s facilities in Texas.
While Starlink already has over 5,000 satellites providing home internet service and plans to launch tens of thousands more, AST SpaceMobile is not far behind in terms of satellites with cellular capabilities.
SpaceX recently launched the first six Starlink satellites capable of providing cellular transmissions to standard LTE phones, demonstrating the technology with text messages sent between T-Mobile phones.