Vodafone-backed AST SpaceMobile is preparing to launch a space-based mobile network targeting 49 largest countries in the equatorial regions, including Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, and Tanzania – from 2023.
These markets are served by Vodafone affiliates Safaricom and Vodacom.
The AST SpaceMobile project launched in March is backed by Vodafone and Rakuten.
AST SpaceMobile will be the first service of its kind to connect standard mobile phones at 4G and 5G speeds using AST SpaceMobile’s patented space-based network.
The first tranche of AST SpaceMobile’s launch plans will involve the use of 20 satellites to offer seamless, low-latency mobile connectivity that can be accessed by approximately 1.6 billion people across a vast geographical region, said Vodafone in a statement.
Subject to regulatory approval in each market, these will include DRC; Ghana; Mozambique; Kenya; and Tanzania. AST SpaceMobile will also apply for regulatory approval to launch the service in India.
“Providing affordable mobile coverage for everyone requires a blend of technologies and infrastructure, from traditional masts to small cells, balloons and satellites at the edge of space,” Shameel Joosub, the CEO of Vodacom Group, said.
“While we have been adding deep rural network sites to connect remote communities without any coverage, the lack of power in some areas creates insurmountable obstacles. AST SpaceMobile will ensure that remote communities in many sub-Saharan African countries can have access to the latest digital services.”
In order to support the phase one commercial launch of its network, AST SpaceMobile has secured up to $462 million in gross proceeds in additional financing. This will come from existing investors in the company including Vodafone, Rakuten and American Tower as well as new financial investors including UBS O’Connor and a broad base of financial institutions.
“We are thrilled to move forward in executing on phase one of our commercial launch in conjunction with Vodafone,” said Abel Avellan, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AST SpaceMobile.
“Our high-speed, low latency platform represents the world’s first venture aimed at massively closing the digital divide by bringing affordable and accessible connectivity to the regions that need it most. We believe our game-changing solution will serve to drive universal and global connectivity, allowing societies to utilize digital technology to gain greater access to knowledge and information.”
Backed by an extensive IP and patent portfolio, AST SpaceMobile will enable global seamless roaming to and from terrestrial cellular networks, filling mobile coverage gaps around the world.
With initial access to 1.3 billion subscribers from a group of the world’s largest wireless communications companies, AST SpaceMobile’s services will ultimately aim to meet the needs of the five billion mobile subscribers who face broadband connectivity issues when moving in and out of terrestrial cellular range and enable mobility access to more than half of the world population that does not have access to internet on their phone.