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UK-based mobile service provider Vodafone has backed a satellite project that will connect mobile devices to a broadband internet network from space.
Vodafone has invested $25 million in satellite manufacturer Avellan Space Technology (AST) & Science’s project called SpaceMobile—a low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellite network that can directly connect to mobile devices. AST & Science was able to raise a total amount of $128 million, which includes financial support from other companies and the satellite manufacturer’s founder and CEO Abel Avellan.
The chief technology officer of Vodafone explained that the network of satellites will be launched in a couple of years. He added that the company will initially provide 4G service and offer 5G later on.
Vodafone will assist AST & Science in activating the SpaceMobile network, ironing out terms with regulators, and providing the necessary equipment to support the satellites.
The project underscores the exceptional support LEO satellites can provide to existing land-based networks. Since land-based systems already cover populated areas, developers will create SpaceMobile for sparsely populated regions. Using the satellites, Vodafone said that its mobile network coverage can be expanded across Europe and Africa.
Vodafone also announced that an initial test of SpaceMobile was successful. The technology was on board the BlueWalker 1 satellite, which was launched in April last year.
According to Avellan, the new venture will be essential in improving the mobile connectivity of five billion mobile users around the world.