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‘Space-based’ phone call: Telecom firm AT&T successfully tests the idea

Verizon is partnering with Amazon’s 'Project Kuiper' satellite network for an AT&T-like move

US-based telecommunications company AT&T recently achieved a significant milestone by successfully completing the first-ever two-way audio call using satellites with a regular smartphone.

According to an Engadget report, the call was placed from AT&T’s location in Midland, Texas, to Japanese mobile carrier Rakuten, and the device used was a Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone.

The call was made possible through AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 satellite technology, which facilitated seamless communication between the two parties.

“Achieving what many once considered impossible, we have reached the most significant milestone to date in our quest to deliver global cellular broadband from space,” informed Abel Avellan, CEO and chairman of AST SpaceMobile, to the media.

“While we take a moment to celebrate this tremendous accomplishment, we remain focused on the path ahead and pivotal next steps that get us closer to our goal of transforming the way the world connects,” the official stated further.

Rakuten Chairman & CEO Mickey Mikitani said, “It was a unique thrill and honour to have the Rakuten team talk with Abel in a world-first direct-to-satellite experience. Congratulations to AST SpaceMobile and all of its strategic collaborators on this groundbreaking event.”

“As technological advancements like space connectivity become possible with pioneers like AST SpaceMobile, Rakuten will also progress even further along the road to democratising connectivity for all,” the official added.

The company has also stated that the use of satellites has the potential to be a significant stride in improving cellular access, not just in the US where many areas lack reliable service, but also in developing countries.

Numerous regions throughout the United States, including rural communities and national parks, suffer from a lack of cellular coverage, commonly referred to as “dead zones”.

The technology used to solve this problem in the US could potentially offer a solution for similar issues in developing countries, the Engadget report said, while further adding that AT&T intends to use satellites as a means of delivering cellular broadband that covers the full range from 2G to 5G on a global basis.

“AT&T’s heritage began with the birth of the telephone 147 years ago and has continued with many other firsts including trans-continental call, overseas call, call from the moon, and partnering to deliver the only network built with and for America’s first responders,” said Chris Sambar, Head of AT&T Network, while interacting with the media.

“We connect people to greater possibility, and this important milestone with AST SpaceMobile is a big step and we can’t wait to see what’s next in our space-based journey,” he added.

On the other hand, Verizon is partnering with Amazon’s ‘Project Kuiper’ satellite network for an AT&T-like move. Amazon has plans to deploy 3,236 satellites and the Federal Communications Commission wants at least half of these space assets to be operational by July 2026.

SpaceX has emerged as T-Mobile’s partner for a similar project, as the Elon Musk-led firm has already launched over 4,000 Starlink V2 satellites into orbit. T-Mobile now claims that its customers would get satellite access through the existing plans, as the current generation smartphones should work with the satellite offerings.

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