AST Spacemobile has proven that satellite connectivity does not require a smartphone. The company, along with a major investor, AT&T, made the first satellite call using out-of-the-box smartphones, specifically Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. AST placed a call from Texas to a phone in Japan.
Now, it’s worth distinguishing the following: from a phone like the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Galaxy S23 It supports satellite communication (even if Samsung doesn’t yet), but only via text messages. The system uses the Iridium satellite network and works similarly to InReach products from Garmin and its competitors. It cannot be used for phone calls.
With this first satellite call, the signal originating in Texas traveled from a Galaxy S22 Ultra to a BlueWalker 3 satellite, then back to another smartphone in Japan. AT&T’s unspecified spectrum worked intermittently, which is why it didn’t require switching phones for it to work. In theory, you can do this with any LTE-capable phone.
According to AST, this initial test proved what we all really wanted to know: BlueWalker 3 can support cellular broadband data speeds. In other words, the experiment shows that anyone can be connected anywhere, even with fixed smartphones, without expensive cell tower infrastructure.
In the future, this will allow people living in rural or developing countries to get cellular connectivity.