Rakuten will get approval for AST SpaceMobile testing

Direct-to-satellite service exams are deliberate for the distant mountains on Japan’s northernmost island

Rakuten Cell introduced this week that it has obtained preliminary licenses from Japanese regulators to start testing direct-to-mobile satellite tv for pc communication. The corporate mentioned it’s working with satellite tv for pc maker AST SpaceMobile and its lately launched BlueWalker 3 satellite tv for pc to supply prospects with ubiquitous connectivity even the place there isn’t terrestrial cell protection.

AST SpaceMobile has differentiated its deliberate service from different burgeoning direct-to-satellite cellular broadband companies by claiming to be constructing the primary and solely space-based mobile broadband community accessible by off-the-shelf unmodified cellphones. AST SpaceMobile launched its BlueWalker 3 satellite tv for pc in September on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The corporate introduced earlier this week that BlueWalker 3 had been efficiently deployed.

AST SpaceMobile
The satellite tv for pc has a 693-square-foot antenna, which is the most important array that has ever been deployed in low Earth orbit, in keeping with AST SpaceMobile. (Supply: AST SpaceMobile)

The BlueWalker 3 satellite tv for pc has a 693-square-foot antenna, which is the most important array that has ever been deployed in low Earth orbit, in keeping with AST SpaceMobile. The BlueWalker 3 is AST’s second take a look at satellite tv for pc, offering a glimpse into the long run AST SpaceMobile has deliberate: A constellation of 168 comparable satellites known as BlueBirds, which the corporate is hoping to in the end launch to create a world community of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. AST says it may well construct as much as six of those satellites a month at its Texas manufacturing facility, and that world protection must be reached as soon as about 110 are in orbit.

Rakuten and AST SpaceMobile first introduced they had been working collectively greater than a yr in the past. On the time, the businesses hoped to start business service in Japan by late 2023 or early 2024. Rakuten Cell defined that to check communication with BlueWalker 3, the corporate needed to apply to the Japanese authorities’s regional Tohoku Bureau of Telecommunications. The corporate sought a “Gateway Experimental Check Station” license, which it described in a press launch as equal to a cellular base station. Rakuten Cell additionally went to the Kanto Bureau of Telecommunications for a Cell Terminal Experimental Check Station license, which it described as much like a transportable cellular base station. Each regulatory our bodies accredited the request, Rakuten Cell famous.

With the bureaucratic paperwork out of the best way, Rakuten Cell mentioned it’ll prep a gateway earth station, the equal of a cellular base station. That system will start working in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture, to assist Rakuten take a look at and confirm direct communications between BlueWalker 3 and cellular handsets working in mountainous areas on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Rakuten additionally described among the important software program that AST SpaceMobile will likely be incorporating into its community to help the trouble.

AST SpaceMobile’s service is designed to help unmodified cellular handsets. Picture by way of Rakuten and AST SpaceMobile.

“To allow testing with Rakuten Cell and different carriers, Rakuten Symphony will present quite a lot of software program from its Symworld product portfolio to AST SpaceMobile to be built-in into the corporate’s satellite tv for pc system and allow the corporate’s space-based mobile broadband community. The software program to be built-in contains Rakuten Symphony’s vRAN (virtualized Radio Entry Community) software program, OSS (Operations Help Programs) and BSS (Enterprise Help Programs) software program,” mentioned Rakuten Cell.

Whereas AST SpaceMobile exams BlueWalker 3 with Rakuten Cell and different telcos, different non-terrestrial networking (NTN) cellular efforts proceed apace. Maybe the highest-profile but is Apple’s deployment of “Emergency SOS by satellite tv for pc” on the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Professional, which launched earlier this week within the US and Canada, with plans to activate in some European international locations in December. Apple developed the service with satellite tv for pc operator Globalstar, contributing practically half a billion {dollars} from its Superior Manufacturing Fund to improve Globalstar’s floor stations with custom-designed high-power antennas. Not like AST SpaceMobile’s proposed community, nevertheless, that service is proscribed solely to iPhone 14 fashions, which have a Qualcomm modem that helps Globalstar’s n53 band.

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