Orange is planning to use satellites to plug coverage gaps in one of its African markets, with a successful trial resulting potentially in a full rollout of the technology across its footprint.
In a statement, US-based satellite company AST SpaceMobile revealed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Orange, to examine the opportunity for the operator to test the company’s technology in an unspecified African country.
The test will use AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 satellite which beams directly to phones via 3G frequencies. It claimed the satellite is the first and only space-based cellular broadband network designed to be accessible directly by standard mobile phones.
The satellite company said the test “paves the way” for a potential agreement to serve more Orange subscribers with the technology, orange has over 220 global subscribers.
"AST SpaceMobile's satellite constellation could revolutionise how mobile subscribers connect. We look forward to working with AST SpaceMobile to explore expanding Orange’s service offerings to geographic regions where it is difficult to build out cellular infrastructure," said Orange International Networks EVP Jean-Luc Vuillemin.
"AST SpaceMobile seeks not only to fill cellular broadband coverage gaps for millions of existing subscribers, but also to extend mobile service to areas which currently have little to none at all," added AST SpaceMobile Chief commercial officer Chris Ivory.
Other backers of AST SpaceMobile includes Rakuten Mobile, Vodafone and American Tower.