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Space-Based 5G Service Coming to Rural Africa, India

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Dec 16, 2020, 1:44 PM   by Rich Brome   @rbrome

AST SpaceMobile and Vodafone today unveiled plans for the world's first commercial mobile network for standard 4G/5G phones that operates from satellites in orbit instead of ground-based towers. The network is planned to launch in 2023, covering 1.6 billion people in the 49 largest countries in the equatorial regions. Service will launch initially in DRC, Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, and Tanzania, expanding later to India and Europe. Using a network of 20 satellites, the service is intended to fill coverage gaps in rural and remote areas, as well as providing vital communications in the event of a natural or humanitarian disaster that damages ground-based networks. AST's technology does not require a special, expensive satellite phone, but rather is designed to work with ordinary cell phones. A rival company — Lynk Global — announced a successful test of similar technology in March.

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