Nokia Oyj will provide equipment to connect AST SpaceMobile Inc. satellites to the global telecommunications network, creating a crucial link in a planned space-based broadband network designed to work with standard mobile phones, the companies said in a statement Thursday.
In addition to AirScale base stations, Espoo, Finland-based Nokia will provide its NetAct network management systems and technical support, the companies said. Terms of the five-year deal with Austin, Texas-based AST SpaceMobile weren’t disclosed.
AST’s BlueWalker 3 test satellite, an array of antennas that measures 693 square feet (64 square meters), is planned for launch in early to mid-September. Eventually the network will consist of 168 satellites, the company told investors in a March 31 filing.
With BlueWalker 3 aloft, AST plans to conduct testing on five continents in coordination with mobile network operators such as Vodafone Group Plc, Rakuten Mobile and Orange SA.
AST and Nokia said the network is intended to offer connections to people and places without digital services.
“Connectivity should be considered an essential service like water, electricity or gas,” said Tommi Uitto, Nokia’s president of mobile services. “Everyone should be able to have access to universal broadband services that will ensure that no one is left behind.”
AST SpaceMobile is among a group of companies vying to offer broadband from near space, a cohort that includes Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Inmarsat Group Holdings Ltd, and OneWeb Ltd., which recently agreed to combine with Eutelsat Communications SA.
“The key differentiator,” AST SpaceMobile said in its annual filing March 31, “is that we intend to connect our SpaceMobile service to standard, unmodified cellular phones without the requirement of special software, ground terminals or hardware.”