A Vodafone Spain engineer, José Guevarahas been the first person to respond from Earth to a 5G voice call made over the Internet from space. Furthermore, Guevara answered the call using a conventional smartphone: a Samsung Galaxy S22. As confirmed by the operator, this test call has been completed jointly between the operator and AST SpaceMobile, which is an American satellite designer and manufacturer.
Guevara, in Spain, took the call that came from Hawaii. This, carried out through the satellite. BlueWalker 3 from AST SpaceMobile, also in testing, is «largest commercial communications array deployed in low Earth orbit«.
Meanwhile, AST Space Mobile has dedicated itself to testing mobile internet on the same infrastructure, and has apparently surpassed its previous record. In this case, the researchers achieved a download rate of almost 14 Mbps. According to Vodafone, this new technology has the potential to bring mobile Internet even to the most remote regions of the planet.
This test marks another important milestone in AST SpaceMobile’s goal of launching five commercial BlueBird satellites during the first quarter of 2024. Using low-orbit satellites for this type of connectivity, the operator hopes to bring mobile communication, both voice and of data, to points where no physical infrastructure has been deployed, or where doing so is very complicated or expensive due to the orography.
In parallel, Vodafone engineers are working on testing the AST Space Mobile service. Vodafone expects the company’s ground infrastructure in Spain to play a key role in establishing a future satellite network. This includes a control center and customer traffic management, covering remote land areas in Europe and the Mediterranean Sea.
To complement their direct-to-smartphone satellite communications work with AST SpaceMobile, Vodafone and Vodacom also have plans to use low-orbit satellites, with which to connect geographically dispersed mobile antennas with the operators’ main telecommunications networks.
Margherita Della Valle, CEO of the Vodafone Grouphas stated that the company wants «close the mobile use egg» for millions of people in Europe and Africa, and that «By making the first 5G call from space to Europe, we have taken another important step towards making that ambition a reality. We are delighted to be at the forefront of space technology through our agreement with AST SpaceMobile«.