Elon Musk Enters The Space Race Again, This Time With Cell Phones: Here's A Public Company Building Its Own Space Network

Zinger Key Points
  • The "Coverage Above and Beyond" technology cooperation between the two businesses will put an end to mobile dead zones.
  • AST SpaceMobile is the first and leading space-based cellular provider.

T-Mobile US Inc. TMUS and Elon Musk's SpaceX jointly announced a technology cooperation agreement on Thursday at the former's Starbase facility in south Texas.

At the event, Musk and T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert presented a plan to offer space-based connectivity to T-Mobile customers starting in 2023.

The "Coverage Above and Beyond" technology cooperation between the two businesses will put an end to mobile dead zones, Sievert said. 

Pending regulatory hurdles, the collaboration will enter beta testing in 2023 with messaging, MMS and even “messaging apps.” Data and voice will be added later, the T-Mobile CEO said. 

Read more: Elon Musk's SpaceX Collaborates With T-Mobile To Put An End To Cell Phone 'Dead Zones'

The Other Space Phone Play: The announcement from the top cellular carrier and space exploration company fully supports the underlying science and technology for which another cellular operator, AST SpaceMobile Inc ASTS, has a three-to-five-year advantage. 

A Texas-based company, AST SpaceMobile, went public via SPAC in April 2021 at a post-transaction enterprise valuation of $1.4 billion with investors including Vodafone Group VOD, American Tower Corp AMT, and Samsung. The company is building the first space-based cellular broadband network accessible by mobile phones.

NASA intervened when the Texas-based startup approached the FCC for entry to the U.S. market in 2020 to offer internet connectivity to mobile phones from space, according to an Ars Technica story

The 243 satellites that AST planned to launch were too large, according to NASA, and may have caused a "catastrophic collision" with sats from its A-Train program that are in a nearby orbit, the report said. 

Read more: Listen To The Creepiest Outer Space Sounds, Courtesy Of A Black Hole

This, along with supply chain issues, hampered the company’s ability to launch its first operational satellite-constellation until late 2023, according to Space News

On Aug. 15, the company said its first five satellites will be 50% smaller than initially planned to avoid further delaying commercial services; coincidentally, AST plans to launch the satellites aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

More Space Internet Efforts: Other space-based internet system collaborations include Verizon Communications Inc.’s VZ partnership with Amazon.com, Inc AMZN to use the tech giant’s coming satellite internet system to expand rural broadband access in the U.S.

Amazon’s internet satellite plans, named Project Kuiper, is a low Earth orbit satellite system designed to provide fast broadband service to underserved or rural areas.

Amazon will use Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin, along with Arianespace and United Launch Alliance to send the majority of its 3,236 satellites to make up its own satellite constellation.

ASTS, TMUS Price Action: Shares of ASTS are trading 4% higher intraday Friday to $11.67. Shares of T-Mobile are trading 2.4% lower to $143.48, according to data from Benzinga Pro

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