UK chip design house EnSilica is to develop next generation custom chip for a space-based cellular broadband network.
The Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite network being developed by AST SpaceMobile in the US will be the first and AST says the only global cellular broadband network in space to operate directly with standard, unmodified mobile devices. The aim is to eliminate the connectivity gaps faced by today’s 5bn mobile subscribers moving in and out of coverage, and bring cellular broadband to the approximately half of the world’s population that remains unconnected. The company has so far raised $128m for the network from investors including network operators Vodafone and Rakuten as well as Samsung NEXT.
Satellite broadband is a key area of development with LEO networks from SpaceX in the US and OneWeb in the UK offering links to terminals on the ground, and Amazon planning to launch its own network, called Kuiper. Satellite operator Inmarsat is also combining 5G capability with its networks.
After engaging with AST SpaceMobile more than a year ago, EnSilica has been selected to deliver a high performance ASIC that is a key part of the design of the payload of the satellite alongside a four chipset from Dialog, now part of Renesas Electronics.
EnSilica has deep expertise in both design and product engineering gained from its applications across the automotive and industrial industries and has the capabilities to meet the high reliability and harsh environmental requirements of space applications.
“We are delighted to be working alongside AST SpaceMobile to help deliver their mission. The provision of global coverage from a low Earth orbit satellite constellation is not only highly innovative, but aims to change the lives of billions of people all over the planet, and we are very pleased to be a part of it,” said Ian Lankshear, CEO of EnSilica.
“AST SpaceMobile’s decision to select EnSilica was based on their advanced digital signal processing and RFIC work, enabling them to deliver the innovative architecture to meet our requirements for our next generation semi-conductor,” said Dr. Huiwen Yao, Chief Technology Officer of AST SpaceMobile. “We look forward to working with EnSilica to help AST SpaceMobile bring cellular broadband connectivity to the world.”
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