Nokia partners with AST SpaceMobile for Orbital 5G

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Finnish kit supplier Nokia has signed a five-year deal with AST SpaceMobile to deliver 4G and 5G via LEO satellites to connect “underserved communities around the world”.

AST SpaceMobile says it is building a “space-based broadband cellular network that is directly accessible via standard 4G or 5G mobile devices”, and is contracted to provide Nokia RAN hardware. The BlueWalker 3 test satellite will be launched later this year, which will begin global testing with various mobile network operators around the world.

AST SpaceMobile says it is “bridging the connectivity gaps faced by more than five billion mobile subscribers worldwide and bringing cellular broadband to the nearly half of the world’s population that remains unconnected.” Connected”. The idea is that customers can roam from a terrestrial network to a space network at a location far enough away to be out of cellular coverage. It currently has contracts with a list of unnamed carriers that apparently collectively serve more than 1.8 billion customers.

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Airscale offers single RAN equipment including base stations powered by the Nokia ReefShark System-on-Chip chipset, modular baseband plug-in cards and its NetAct solutions for network management, optimization and data services. Technical support. The BlueWalker 3 LEO test satellite will apparently launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida in mid-September, and AST SpaceMobile aims to deploy about 100 satellites in total.

“Connectivity should be treated as an essential service like water, electricity or gas,” said Tommy Wittow, president of Nokia Mobile Networks. “Everyone should be able to have access to universal broadband services that will ensure no one is left behind,” said Tommy Wittow, president of Nokia Mobile Networks. “Nokia has a long history of providing connectivity solutions that have had a large and positive impact on society. We have worked closely with AST SpaceMobile for two years on this important initiative that aims to provide vital space connectivity to underserved communities around the world. We are certainly proud that our technology plays an important role in supporting the network. »

Scott Wisniewski, Chief Strategy Officer, AST SpaceMobile, added, “With the integration of Nokia’s AirScale system, AST SpaceMobile and Nokia are taking an important step toward closing connectivity gaps around the world. Nokia supports dozens of our engineers and development professionals, including leading architectural research experts from Bell Labs, Nokia’s world-renowned industrial research arm. In the coming months, we plan to launch our BlueWalker 3 test satellite into low Earth orbit, which has a 64 square meter phased array antenna designed for direct-to-cell connectivity. Through this satellite, we plan to conduct trials with the world’s major mobile network operators leveraging Nokia’s technological solutions.

The above quotes present the whole thing almost as a philanthropic venture, as companies often do when they feel able. But of course, companies providing the kind of spatial connectivity in remote areas that it describes are likely to make a lot of money, as other market players such as OneWeb and Telefonica have clearly concluded.

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