US satellite network operator AST & Science has commissioned Dialog Semiconductor to design four custom chips for a space system that will provide broadband links to smartphones from space.
The AST SpaceMobile network will be a 4G LTE space-based cellular broadband network accessible by a standard smartphone. It has already raised $128m with investors including network operators Vodafone and Rakuten as well as Samsung NEXT.
Dialog’s recently established Industrial IoT Business Group will develop four custom advanced RF chips that are part of the satellite electronics payload for SpaceMobile to provide the secure radio communications link.
The four chips will be used as part of the RF communication link between the satellite and the ground and will include elements such as low noise amplifiers, power amplifiers covering specific frequency bands, filtering and programmable gain amplifier control.
For the LEO application, the chips are not developed on a specific rad-hard process node but will be qualified to the requirements of AST.
AST owns a controlling stake in European small satellite manufacturer and system integrator NanoAvionics and would be a natural partner to build the systems for the network. A satellte testbed for AST's proprietary technologies called BlueWalker 1 was launched in April 2019.
“We deliver measurable business benefits to customers like AST SpaceMobile by providing an advanced RF ASIC chipset that satisfies the most challenging technical and commercial requirements. Custom ASICs are part of Dialog’s DNA, with customers benefiting from our high-performance mixed-signal and advanced RF IP portfolio specifically in this case helping to provide the first space-based cellular broadband network for smartphones,” said Dermot Barry, VP Industrial ASIC Business Unit at Dialog Semiconductor.
“AST SpaceMobile’s decision to select Dialog was based on Dialog’s successful track record in servicing the satellite communications market. They have been key suppliers to satellite communications customers and have the range of IP across both mixed-signal and RF needed to meet the requirements of the AST SpaceMobile program,”