Alongside Rakuten, Vodafone has joined investors in backing AST & Science’s burgeoning space-based network

AST & Science intend to launch the world’s first low-earth-orbit (LEO), low-latency satellite network.
Today, Vodafone has announced that it will be investing $25 million in the new project, alongside fellow investors including Rakuten, American Tower, Cisneros, and Samsung NEXT.
The project, to be called SpaceMobile, will link diretly to users smartphones and expand the reach of operator’s existing 4G networks, with 5G support expected in the future.
“SpaceMobile will be particularly transformative to the growing US$1 trillion annual global mobile market because it will eliminate the coverage gaps faced by today’s five billion mobile subscribers moving in and out of connectivity every day,” explained Abel Avellan, AST & Science chairman and CEO. “It will also help the world’s most under-served communities to access the latest mobile services much sooner than predicted, helping more people to access the digital economy.”
As with traditional satellites, one of the main advantages of this LEO network will be its lack of geographic inhibition, allowing it to reach areas too difficult – or too costly – to deploy traditional connectivity infrastructure. This would increase the range of operators like Vodafone to more isolated regions, not only increasing their coverage but also helping to reduce the digital divide.
SpaceMobile will also keep customers connected in the event of traditional signal disruption, such as during a natural or humanitarian disaster.
“We believe SpaceMobile is uniquely placed to provide universal mobile coverage, further enhancing our leading network across Europe and Africa – especially in rural areas and during a natural or humanitarian disaster – for customers on their existing smartphones,” said Nick Read, Vodafone’s CEO.
AST& Science successfully tested its SpaceMobile technology in April last year, and Vodafone is now committed to helping validate the technology.
Operators are increasingly looking skywards for their connectivity solutions this year, with a team of operators, vendors, and aviation specialists forming the HAPS (high-altitude platform stations) Alliance late last month to help develop stratospheric network capabilities. 
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