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Feb. 22, 2024

Rakuten and AST Spacemobile Plan Satellite-to-Smartphone Service from 2026

The companies envisage that the direct-to-mobile satellite services will be used for messaging initially, but ultimately being expanded to internet, voice, and video services using regular smartphones. By K Dass.

Rakuten Mobile has exciting plans to provide a satellite-to-mobile service in Japan starting from 2026. They’re partnering with AST SpaceMobile, the company behind the first and only space-based cellular broadband network directly accessible by everyday smartphones.


This innovative service aims to offer direct satellite-to-mobile communication not only for text messaging but also for broadband communication, including voice and video calls, using commercially available smartphones. In a country like Japan, which faces natural disasters and has many remote islands and mountainous regions, this space-based communication using Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites becomes crucial. During the Noto Peninsula Earthquake of 2024, recovery routes were cut off, causing delays in emergency response. LEO satellites will enable mobile phone connectivity regardless of ground conditions, ensuring connectivity even in challenging situations.

By expanding mobile connectivity across Japan, including remote islands and mountainous areas, Rakuten Mobile and AST SpaceMobile are taking a significant step toward providing reliable network coverage through space-based technologies.

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