Vodacom to test satellite network for regular mobile phones

Vodacom says it has priority access to test AST SpaceMobile’s satellite-based mobile network when the engineering trial begins later this year.

The South African mobile network has stated that it is a leading partner in technology development.

Vodacom announces its partnership with AST At the end of 2020, he indicated that the first phase of the network will include 20 satellites targeting 49 tropical countries.

These include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania – subject to regulatory approvals.

This initiative forms part of an agreement between parent company Vodafone and AST SpaceMobile.

AST informed investors earlier this year The network will eventually consist of 168 satellites.

Shamil Gossip, CEO of Vodacom Group, explained that while it is expanding its coverage into deep rural areas, the lack of power in some places creates insurmountable obstacles.

AST’s BlueWalker 3 experimental satellite arrived in Cape Canaveral on Tuesday and has a launch window from early to mid-September.

The launch date remains subject to change and is dependent on several factors, including final testing, integration and timely readiness of the launch vehicle.

Weather conditions or unknown technical issues may also cause delays.

The BlueWalker 3 will be inserted into low Earth orbit and has an array of antennas measuring 64 square metres.

These allow it to communicate on frequencies that regular cellular phones can receive.

“The cool innovation with AST SpaceMobile is that your phone will automatically detect the satellite and… automatically connect to it. [it]” He said Head of Technology at Vodafone Johan Weberg.

“You will be online. You can browse and make phone calls.”

A Vodacom spokesperson told MyBroadband that the satellite service will supplement its terrestrial network using radio-frequency spectrum not fully used in rural areas.

“The satellites will support multiple frequency bands,” Vodacom said.

MyBroadband asked Vodacom if this technology was a cost-effective way to provide full geographic coverage in South Africa, to which the operator gave a cautious response.

“Our goal is to reduce the digital divide in Africa and provide coverage across rural areas where it is not currently available,” Vodacom said.

Although South Africa is not part of the initial engineering test or first launch phase, Vodacom said SpaceMobile’s network coverage will expand over time.

“During the first phase, coverage will be provided to the tropics of the world, with coverage beyond the equator to be delivered in later phases,” the company said.

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