Nokia is to supply the radio systems for a space-based 5G network that will work with standard mobile phones.
AST SpaceMobile plans to launch its BlueWalker 3 test satellite in September that will provide direct connection to a phone on the ground from a low earth orbit (LEO).
Under the five year deal, AST SpaceMobile will use Nokia’s AirScale Single RAN equipment to connect to phones in six continents, at sea, or in flight. Nokia will provide AirScale base stations powered by its latest generation of Nokia’s ReefShark System-on-Chip (SoC) chipsets with modular baseband plug-in cards which add capacity where it is needed. Nokia will also provide its NetAct solution for network management and seamless daily network operations as well as optimization and technical support services.
BlueWalker 3 has an aperture of approximately 64 m2 to communicate directly with cellular devices via 3GPP standard frequencies. AST SpaceMobile is aiming to deploy approximately 100 satellites to achieve substantial global mobile coverage.
This will also use a custom ASIC designed by EnSilica in Sheffield, UK.
Through deals with mobile network operators, AST SpaceMobile has access to over 1.8 billion cellular customers.
Ericsson is part of a consortium with Thales to build a similar system, while the European Space Agency (ESA) is working with VTT in Finland on a similar system.
“Connectivity should be considered an essential service like water, electricity or gas. Everyone should be able to have access to universal broadband services that will ensure that no one is left behind,” said Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia.
“Nokia has a long history of delivering connectivity solutions that have had a major and positive impact on society. We have worked closely with AST SpaceMobile on this important initiative for two years which seeks to provide crucial connectivity from space to underserved communities around the world,” he said.
“With the integration of Nokia’s AirScale system, AST SpaceMobile and Nokia are taking an important step toward closing connectivity gaps all over the world,” said Scott Wisniewski, Chief Strategy Officer at AST SpaceMobile.
“Nokia is supporting us with dozens of engineers and development professionals, including leading architecture research experts at Bell Labs, the world-renowned industrial research arm of Nokia. In the coming months, we are scheduled 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. With this satellite, we plan to conduct testing all over the world with leading mobile network operators, leveraging Nokia’s technology solutions on the ground,” he said.
Nokia Radio is the infrastructure business based in Helsinki, Finland. The name is licensed to Chinese manufacturer HMD Global which has a key office in Espoo, Finland.
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