SatCo Makes First 5G Call

On Tuesday, a provider of satellite networks reported that it had successfully made a voice and data call from an unmodified smartphone using space technology.

Using AT&T bandwidth and AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 test satellite, the first 5G call of its sort was placed from Maui, Hawaii, to a Vodafone engineer in Madrid, Spain.

According to AST, the call was made on September 8 using a Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone from a wireless dead zone close to Hana, Hawaii.

The business, which is constructing a space-based cellular broadband network, also said that in a different test, it smashed its previous record for a data session by obtaining a download speed of 14 Mbps.

Since the release of BlueWalker 3, we’ve managed to fully support 2G, 4G LTE, and now 5G on phones made by all major manufacturers. Abel Avellan, CEO of AST, stated in a statement.

“AST SpaceMobile has pioneered yet another significant advancement in telecommunications,” he stated, “making the first successful 5G cellular broadband connections from space directly to mobile phones.”

In a statement, Chris Sambar, president of the AT&T Network, said that “these occasions are extraordinary turning points in the history of telecommunications.”

Without ecosystem-wide cooperation, “these ground-breaking innovations would not be possible,” he claimed. We are all collaborating to realize our shared goal of providing space-based connection to customers, businesses, and first responders worldwide.

Small-Subset Attraction

According to Jason Leigh, a senior research analyst for mobility at IDC, a worldwide market and research business, the AST call is another example of what 5G is capable of.

However, he told FluidGeek, “the real applications of it—whether for consumers or business—remain relatively distant.”

According to Michael Hodel, director of stock research for the media and telecom sector at Morningstar Research Services in Chicago, satellite coverage won’t be very essential to most people.

“A small subset of the population that spends a lot of time outside typical network coverage areas might be very interested in having satellite capabilities on their smartphones, eliminating the need for a separate satellite phone,” he said in an interview with FluidGeek.

He continued, “But I could see it periodically appealing to individuals while traveling in distant locations. I predict that the average consumer won’t be prepared to pay more for satellite connectivity month in and month out.

Unwillingness To Pay More

Without a doubt, satellites today offer affordable communication solutions, just as they do for airlines, said John Strand of Danish consulting company Strand Consult, which specializes in telecommunications.

He told TechNewsWorld that “the business case is good” and “the willingness to pay for access to the internet is very high” when people are traveling.

He had little faith in the technology’s ability to gain popularity among most people. “It’s easier to write stories about what you can do with the combination of mobile and satellite than it is to get customers to pay for the extra functionality,” he claimed.

He pointed out that the key issues are whether or not users are willing to pay extra to utilize a satellite connection on their mobile phone and how much a mobile operator is willing to pay for its clients to have access to an additional network.

I don’t think there is a lot of willingness to pay, he remarked. Additionally, if you own a satellite business, you have to compete with expanding Wi-Fi and mobile coverage.

No-Limits Coverage

Michael Misrahi, the Americas telecom chief for multinational professional services company Ernst & Young, contends that 5G satellite service is indeed needed.

A fully interoperable terrestrial and non-terrestrial network will offer complete coverage that is not constrained by towers and terrestrial radio units, he told TechNewsWorld.

He added that the utilization of backhaul, particularly for maritime and rural applications, “serves to improve the network infrastructure.”

From an enterprise standpoint, this creates an interoperable network that can offer connectivity, security, and leverage various connectivity infrastructure to ensure devices and use cases that need 100% uptime connectivity are connected regardless of the morphology and location—even at sea or in the air.

As a result, he continued, “digital transformations and use case adoption for the enterprise in IoT, AI, and elsewhere are all technically feasible and unaffected by a single infrastructure failure or potentially by borders.”

Slow Broadband Internet

According to Octavio Garcia, a senior analyst at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based market research firm Forrester, the 2.6 billion unconnected people worldwide are the primary force driving 5G satellite service.

“One needs to understand, however, that initial use cases for 5G satellite, expected in the next two to three years, are geared towards emergency calls and messages and low data transmissions below 75 Mbps,” he said to TechNewsWorld.

Any technological solutions that can meaningfully close the divide between those who have access to the internet and those who do not are crucial, continued Leigh.

In addition, he added, “I believe the present iPhone’s usage of satellite exposes some of the limitations of the existing state of cellular connectivity from space.

“The AST test resulted in a download speed of 14 Mbps — that doesn’t even meet the FCC’s definition of broadband, which starts at 25 Mbps download speeds,” he said. This implies that, except from the emergency services use on the current iPhone, satellite connectivity is currently truly only an option for last-ditch connectivity.

Wireless Future

According to Hodel, there is still a lot to learn about the satellite business. He claimed that over the past two years, Elon Musk’s Starlink network has fundamentally altered the game by eliminating the exclusivity of service given by a few number of huge geosynchronous satellites.

“Using a fleet of potentially tens of thousands of orbiting low-earth satellites could dramatically increase the amount of capacity available and bring down the cost of delivering that capacity,” the author wrote.

However, as more companies, like Amazon’s Kuiper, attempt to enter this market, “there’s clearly a coordination problem,” he noted. How physical space and frequency utilization will be controlled across conflicting interests and nations is yet unclear.

However, some believe that earth-orbiting wireless communication is the way of the future. “5G satellite service for voice and data is the next step in wireless,” noted technology analyst Jeff Kagan.

In the future, he predicted, “we will see more sophisticated satellite and wireless services converge.” The full connectivity of smartphones, smartwatches, laptops, and other wireless devices to satellites will be shown.