AST Space Mobile and Lynk Pioneering Satellite to Regular Cellphones

SpaceX launched AST Space Mobile Blue Walker 3 satellite. AST Space Mobile is working with many communication partners like Vodaphone to deploy this technology.

NOTE: I realize that Lynk did the first proof of concept. In 2022, Lynk received the first-ever license from the FCC to provide the world’s first commercial satellite direct-to-mobile-phone service, enabling affordable, reliable mobile phone connectivity. From the beginning, Lynk will enable two-way emergency messaging, emergency cell broadcast services, and regular SMS messaging on every phone across the globe. Founded in 2017 by veteran space and telecoms leaders, the Lynk team invented, patented, and proved that a satellite could serve as a “cell tower in space” and connect directly to a standard mobile phone on Earth – a technological feat verified by independent third parties. Today, Lynk is the only company in the world to have successfully sent text messages to and from space via unmodified mobile devices. AST Space Mobile, Lynk and SpaceX are all pursuing this.

The technology is not just a very large foldout antenna array in low earth orbit. There is also beam forming to make the RF (radio frequency work).

Johan Wibergh of Vodafone, Ed Knapp of American Tower, and Tareq Amin of Rakuten are partners with AST Space Mobile.

AST was planning a constellation of almost 170 satellites. The first 20 were originally due to enter operation by 2023 with another 90 deployed through to 2024. It seems to have revised its constellation plans down to 100 according to more recent press releases.

The first test satellite, Bluewalker 1, launched in 2019; Bluewalker 2 was canceled. Its latest test satellite, Bluewalker 3, is due to launch in September 2022 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

In March 2020, AST & Science LLC announced a round of investment, led by Vodafone and Rakuten, that raised $110 million for the company. Samsung Next, American Tower, and Cisneros also participated in that Series B investment. They had a $320 million SPAC.

It plans to launch five more satellites in 2023. AST satellites are a lot bigger. BlueWalker 3 is the largest-ever commercial communications array deployed in LEO. Now that it has been unfolded, the satellite spans 693 square feet in size. It has a field-of-view on the Earth of 700 miles.

AST SpaceMobile is targeting an eventual speed of 30 mbps. Existing higher altitude satellites like Iridium have about 2 mbps of communication speed.

Going direct to your existing cellphone is new.

The satellite phone business still exists and has worked for a couple of decades. Howeverm you need a special satellite phone with a larger antenna for this to work.