Rakuten moves ahead with satellite-to-phone tests

Rakuten Mobile secured preliminary approval from authorities in Japan to trial a direct-to-mobile communications service using AST SpaceMobile’s low Earth orbit (LEO) test satellite BlueWalker 3, advancing the operator’s plans to offer mobile broadband services.

In a statement, Rakuten Mobile explained the preliminary experimental licenses will allow it to test a satellite-to-phone service beginning in the next several months.

It will prepare a gateway Earth station in Fukushima prefecture to test and verify direct communication between BlueWalker 3 and mobile devices in mountainous areas in Hokkaido.

Rakuten Mobile plans to offer mobile broadband connectivity via standard devices from a space-based network to bring access to mountainous areas and remote islands, it stated.

Earlier this week, AST SpaceMobile claimed to have deployed the largest commercial communications array in LEO on BlueWalker 3.

Rakuten Mobile’s parent along with Vodafone Group are investors in AST SpaceMobile, which faces growing competition in the LEO connectivity market.

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