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AT&T reaches for the stars with satellite-based cell service

Cellular dead zones could soon be a thing of the past.

Published onMay 16, 2024

AT&T logo on smartphone (2)
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
  • AT&T and AST SpaceMobile have signed a commercial agreement to provide space-based cellular broadband service.
  • This service aims to eliminate mobile dead zones and provide seamless connectivity even in remote locations.
  • Both companies have already tested the technology, enabling calls and texts between standard smartphones via satellite.

AT&T and AST SpaceMobile have announced a formal commercial agreement to develop a space-based cellular broadband network. This ambitious venture aims to provide direct-to-cell phone service, bypassing traditional cell towers and potentially ensuring seamless communication across the continental United States, even in remote or challenging locations.

The companies have been working together since 2018 and have now formally entered an agreement till 2030. AST SpaceMobile is preparing to send its first five commercial satellites to Cape Canaveral for launch into low Earth orbit. Notably, in 2023, the companies achieved industry firsts by facilitating a voice call, text message, and even a video call between regular smartphones using their space-based connectivity technology.

Jeff McElfresh, AT&T’s Chief Operating Officer, emphasized that this space-based direct-to-mobile technology will complement and integrate with their existing mobile network, providing connectivity in areas previously deemed unreachable. The company envisions a future where wilderness areas, national parks, rural highways, and other remote locations are no longer devoid of reliable cell service.

Abel Avellan, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of AST SpaceMobile, expressed his enthusiasm for the partnership, highlighting their shared goal of delivering reliable and accessible service across the country.

While the exact pricing details and launch date for consumers remain under wraps, AT&T hints that this revolutionary service will be available in the “not-too-distant future.”

This move follows similar initiatives by other industry giants. In 2022, T-Mobile and SpaceX announced their collaboration on Starlink Direct to Cell, with their first satellites launched in January 2024.

While the latest iPhones offer SOS satellite connectivity, and Android phones are soon to follow, this developing technology would enable satellite connectivity on any regular phone, regardless of its built-in capabilities.

Initially, the service may be limited to text messaging, but it is expected to expand to voice and video calls in the future.

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