Home5G & BeyondAST SpaceMobile signs MoUs with Zain and TIM

    AST SpaceMobile signs MoUs with Zain and TIM


    Satellite links for Saudi Arabia and Brazil

    US-based satellite operator AST SpaceMobile has forged pacts with Kuwaiti operator Zain and the Brazilian division of Telecom Italia (TIM), as both telcos seek to reach further into their vast territories and bring digital services to the remotest regions. 

    In a signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with each client, the partners outlined plans for AST SpaceMobile to provide the terrestrial mobile operators with its satellite-based broadband network to improve coverage in rural, remote and other hard-to-reach sites.

    The agreement, said the companies, also includes the exploration of potential space-based mobile broadband services, primarily 5G network signals.

    Power of partners

    Zain’s CTO Abdulrahman AlMufadda said the partnership will allow the operator to “expand digital services and communications” and deliver an “inclusive ecosystem” in Saudi Arabia.

    In Brazil AST SpaceMobile and TIM will use satellites to deliver more cellular connectivity, specifically in the form of 4G data and voice services. Together the partners will test the satellite company’s technology in Brazil’s North and Northeastern regions in the first half of this year.

    “The agreement with AST SpaceMobile complements important ongoing initiatives to promote more digital inclusion, as it will allow TIM to take 4G to isolated areas, districts, villages, roads, resorts and tourist spots that today are not served by other operators,” Marco Di Costanzo, director of network development at TIM Brasil told Capacity magazine’s Saf Malik.

    Satellite-smart phone bridge

    In November 2022, AST SpaceMobile claimed that it had successfully bridged the satellite-smartphone barrier with the BlueWalker 3. The process involves the integration of Radio Access Network software, as well as the respective coding for OSS (Operations Support Systems) and BSS (Business Support Systems) software.

    This was a vital step in delivering both 5G and 4G broadband data and voice services. “Every person should have the right to access cellular broadband, regardless of where they live or work,” AST SpaceMobile chairman and CEO Abel Avellan said. “Our goal is to close the connectivity gaps that negatively impact billions of lives around the world.”

    The Middle East and Africa has an increasing number of 5G options materialising from the space agencies. Three Telefónica divisions, Telefónica Tech and Telefónica Global Solutions (TGS) and Sateliot, a satellite telecoms operator, are creating a global satellite service using Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellations to provide 5G NB-IoT connections. 

    Equipment maker Ericsson, French aerospace group Thales and US chipmaker Qualcomm are also working on a satellite-driven 5G network to improve terrestrial coverage.