T-Mobile has partnered with SpaceX to increase coverage with SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network. Verizon talked about working with Amazon’s Kuiper project program. AT&T has now announced its own new satellite partner.
On Tuesday, the carrier announced a new partnership with AST SpaceMobile, a satellite company, to use its low Earth orbit satellites to help boost AT&T’s ground coverage. In a video about the partnership, Chris Sambar, AT&T’s network president, says the cellular carrier has received “conditional approval” to use part of its wireless spectrum to connect cell phones to satellites.
In the video, Sambar quickly goes over some general applications ranging from helping its FirstNet First Responder Network to business applications such as “remote farming” and “remote machinery.”
AT&T already has a satellite partnership with satellite company OneWeb to offer connections to the wireless carrier’s business users, but has not announced any consumer-focused satellite services.
Sambar hints at a possible mainstream application, however, by describing how his mother-in-law’s drive from rural Virginia to Richmond to “see her children and grandchildren” includes a route currently battling for “n’ any mobile operator”. This drive, he says, could potentially be covered by a “space-based mobile solution.”
AT&T told CNET it plans to use the service to deliver “integrated, complementary, and real-world connectivity from satellite solutions for voice, data, and video services.”
As for device support, AT&T says the service is “intended to integrate with all of our customers’ devices using LTE and 5G broadband on our existing mobile network.” The carrier, however, says it’s “too early” to say whether it will charge extra for the service or include it in customers’ existing plans.
In its announcement of the SpaceX deal earlier this year, T-Mobile also said the “vast majority of smartphones” already on its network will be compatible with its satellite service and that users won’t necessarily need a phone. buy a new phone. to pick up this signal.
T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert also said his company plans to include satellite access on T-Mobile’s “most popular plans,” though some older or cheaper plans may having to pay a monthly fee to get the feature.
Verizon, although the first to announce a space partner in October 2021, did not detail its plans for connecting phones to satellites. Instead, he previously told CNET he plans to use Amazon’s Project Kuiper to “turn the entire map of the United States red,” providing backhaul connections to his cell towers in areas that lack fast and reliable internet connections.
As for when AT&T and AST SpaceMobile’s services might start appearing, AST SpaceMobile has already talked about testing its “direct-to-cell satellite capabilities” in the first quarter of next year before launching its five first commercial satellites at the “end of 2023”. AT&T plans to join these tests in the first quarter.
Scott Wisniewski, chief strategy officer at AST SpaceMobile, told CNET in a statement that after these satellites launch next year, it will be able to “offer intermittent broadband services in 2024.”
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