Verizon joins satellite phone party, links up to AST SpaceMobile

Rival AT&T is also with AST, although T-Mobile went with SpaceX’s Starlink

Verizon has become the latest telco to sign up for a satellite phone service, joining rival US operator AT&T in choosing AST SpaceMobile as its provider, even though the latter has yet to put any of its commercial satellites into orbit.

Word of the latest partnership was confirmed by AST SpaceMobile, which claimed it means the pair would be able to provide a service with 100 percent coverage of the continental US, using the 850 MHz spectrum band.

To seal the deal, Verizon is putting up $100 million in investment, $65 million of which is commercial prepayments (with $45 million subject to certain conditions), and $35 million of convertible notes.

AST's satellite service is designed to operate with standard, unmodified mobile handsets, and it appears the aim is to extend the reach of Verizon’s network into areas where it currently does not have coverage.

“This partnership will enhance cellular connectivity in the United States, essentially eliminating dead zones and empowering remote areas of the country with space-based connectivity,” AST SpaceMobile Founder and CEO Abel Avellan claimed in a statement.

This was echoed by Verizon’s senior veep of Technology and Product Development Srini Kalapala, who said “By entering into this agreement with AST, we will now be able to use our spectrum in conjunction with AST’s satellite network to provide essential connectivity in remote corners of the US where cellular signals are unreachable through traditional land-based infrastructure.”

The move follows AT&T’s announcement of a definitive commercial agreement with AST earlier this month, meaning that the satellite outfit can now count 2 of the largest telcos in the US as customers. It also has arrangements with Japan's Rakuten Mobile, while Europe’s Vodafone also intends to offer services using AST’s satellites in future.

However, while the company is clocking up deals, it has yet to put into orbit the commercial satellites it will need to actually provide the service. The first 5 BlueBird satellites were supposed to have been launched into low Earth orbit by the end of last year, but have been repeatedly delayed.

In its most recent Business Update earlier this month, AST revealed it was still in discussions with government regulatory bodies, including telco regulator the FCC, but claimed these are "advancing as expected."

The company said it is now on target for a July or August delivery of the 5 Block 1 satellites to Cape Canaveral, and it is understood they are expected to be lofted aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sometime in Q3 of this year, if all goes to plan.

AST has so far been trialing its ability to reach users at ground level from orbit with the BlueWalker 3 test vehicle, with which it claimed to have made the first space-based 5G call and the first two-way voice call using unmodified smartphones last year.

At the same time, America's other large telco, T-Mobile US, has buddied up with SpaceX’s Starlink operation for satellite telephony, an agreement that was announced in 2022.

Starlink talked of a successful test of its Direct to Cell (DTC) technology in January, which involved a two-way text message conversation. The company previously said it would offer this as a commercial service sometime in 2024, with voice and data features to be added in 2025.

In addition to T-Mobile US, Starlink now lists Rogers in Canada, Optus in Australia, One NZ in New Zealand, Salt in Switzerland, and KDDI in Japan as customers of its service. ®

More about

More about

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like