Vodafone has chosen MWC 2023 to show its proposal for the future of mobile networks. On this occasion, the operator has presented, together with its partner, AST SpaceMobile, a new generation of satellite communications pioneer in the world.
The idea is to use satellite communications to bring broadband telecommunications to any corner of the world, especially to rural or unpopulated areas where spelling makes it difficult to deploy terrestrial networks.
Unlike other proposals for satellite communications that we have seen in recent months, that of Vodafone and AST SpaceMobile is especially interesting and a pioneer in the market: it will work on any current mobile terminal.
This is a fundamental change compared to other options such as Starlink or the emergency satellite communications that Apple introduced with the iPhone 14 and that uses Globalstar technology, which requires its own connection system or a compatible terminal.
Vodafone and AST satellite technology works on any mobile
Vodafone’s proposal is different and, when operational, fully transparent to the end user. You will not need to change your mobile or buy a new one, since it will connect directly to standard mobiles with 5G, 4G and 2G. Another of its differentiating elements resides in the fact that it will offer complete functionality, similar to what the company does through its terrestrial network: fully functional and operational broadband.
Vodafone’s partner in this adventure is AST SpaceMobile, a satellite design and manufacturing space company that is also a pioneer in offering satellite connection to standard mobile phones. It is responsible for the design and deployment of satellites. The first of them, called BlueWalker 3, was launched last November and is the one with which the first tests are being carried out.
The complete plan is to launch several more satellites this 2023 and continue in 2024 to have a complete network that offers uninterrupted coverage. BlueWalker 3 is located in low orbit and makes one complete orbit around the Earth every 90 minutes. Unlike other satellites that offer mobile communications, the BlueWalker 3 and the technology of AST SpaceMobile it is quite special. It is a communications satellite of enormous proportions, about 64 m² and 1,500 kg:
A size that according to the company is necessary to offer satellite communication as if it were terrestrial. In fact, the next generations are likely to be even bigger.
With the first satellite in orbit, Vodafone Spain expects to carry out tests of the satellite voice and data service in the coming months. The final ideal is to offer voice calls, messaging, emergency services, broadband internet connection and Internet of Things (IoT) services. Everything in a transparent way, so that it is the mobile terminal that switches between satellite and terrestrial connection automatically, depending on the circumstances.
Vodafone will be able to provide coverage to any corner of Spain and beyond
If all goes well, it will mean that Vodafone has a 4G and 5G coverage footprint of 95% in Spain. In this way, it will be possible serve broadband connection in rural or directly unpopulated areas where there is no terrestrial infrastructure. Also mobile communications in maritime corridors, or being able to deploy coverage on demand in specific areas in the event of disasters in which the land infrastructure is damaged.
It is a revolutionary solution that could complement traditional coverage and is perfectly suited to the home and business scenario in rural Spain. Our purpose is to ensure that everyone has access to the services and benefits of a digital society, no matter where they live.,
Julia Velasco, Director of Network of Vodafone Spain.
Vodafone has been the first to take this step with a pioneering technology if we take into account that it allows the service to be offered on unmodified or specific mobile phones for use with satellite connections. In addition, the company also has exclusivity in the use of this technology in its area of operations, so it is a tremendously important advantage in a market, that of satellite communications, which has gained special interest in recent years. .
Logically, the company does not set a definitive date for the final consumer to start enjoying this technology. Its tests will begin in the coming months, all while AST SpaceMobile continues to deploy its satellites for complete and uninterrupted coverage.
If, as everything seems to indicate, satellite communications are the next step in the industry, Vodafone’s technology, totally transparent to the user and compatible with unmodified terminals, is a tremendously significant step so that, in not many years, there will be areas without coverage a thing of the past.