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Breaking Boundaries - Investing In Innovation And A Space-Based Network

06 Mar 2020Technology news

In today’s world, we’re used to expecting coverage everywhere we go, but what about the more remote corners of the world?  We’re not talking about villages and rural communities, but forests, deserts and truly remote locations.

A satellite phone is a solution for remote connectivity, but is often costly, and who wants to carry two phones? What if you could connect your usual smartphone directly with a satellite, so that when you don’t have land-base connectivity, you could auto-connect to a satellite, giving seamless connectivity and bridging coverage gaps wherever you are? We’re investing in a company that could make this a reality.

Vodafone have invested in AST & Science, who aim to extend mobile coverage to more people and devices across the planet, using the first mobile broadband network that will be broadcast from space. Our engineers have been working in partnership to develop and test the space-based network, SpaceMobile, which will be the first to connect directly to 4G – and in the future 5G – smartphones without any need for specialised satellite hardware.

This venture could enhance our existing networks in Europe and Africa, and could help our customers stay connected.

SpaceMobile, is a low-Earth-orbit (LEO), low-latency satellite network and will enable seamless roaming to and from terrestrial cellular networks at comparable data rates without any need for specialised satellite hardware. It will help eliminate the coverage gaps, and will also help the world’s most under-served communities to access mobile services much sooner than predicted, helping more people globally access the digital economy.

There is so much potential for digital inclusion in remote places where the cost of building networks or difficult building and engineering conditions is prohibitive, but there’s a way to go before we launch satellites into space and see the benefits for customers. Nonetheless the potential is super exciting and our engineers will continue to work with AST & Science, so that we can bring this technology to our commercial operations in the next few years.

Nick Read, Vodafone Group Chief Executive, said, “At Vodafone we want to ensure everyone benefits from a digital society – that no-one is left behind. 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.”

To learn more, please watch the enclosed video in which Johan Wibergh, Vodafone Group Chief Technology Officer, officially introduces the partnership and shares his thoughts.

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