Rakuten Mobile and AST SpaceMobile to Launch Satellite-to-Mobile Service in Japan by 2026

Rakuten Mobile and AST SpaceMobile to Launch Satellite-to-Mobile Service in Japan by 2026

Key Points:

  • Rakuten Mobile plans to launch a satellite-to-mobile service in partnership with AST SpaceMobile.
  • The collaboration aims to provide direct satellite-to-mobile communication supporting voice, video, and text messaging.
  • Leveraging LEO satellites, the initiative targets regions with limited network infrastructure and high susceptibility to natural disasters.
  • Significant milestones include the world’s first two-way voice calls and 5G connection between satellites and standard smartphones.

Rakuten Mobile, Inc. has announced its collaboration with AST SpaceMobile to introduce satellite-to-mobile service in Japan, with plans to commence the service by 2026. AST SpaceMobile, the pioneer in developing the first space-based cellular broadband network accessible directly by everyday smartphones, aims to provide direct satellite-to-mobile services that support text messaging, voice, and video calls on commercially available smartphones.

The initiative is driven by Japan’s growing demand for space-based communication services, particularly in regions prone to natural disasters and remote islands with limited network infrastructure. During the Noto Peninsula Earthquake of 2024, recovery efforts were hindered due to severed communication routes, highlighting the necessity for reliable connectivity during emergencies.

Leveraging Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, the collaboration between Rakuten Mobile and AST SpaceMobile seeks to ensure uninterrupted mobile phone connectivity, even in adverse conditions and disaster scenarios.

Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO of Rakuten Group, emphasized the importance of expanding mobile connectivity across Japan, especially in remote and disaster-prone areas. The partnership with AST SpaceMobile represents a commitment to innovation and resilience, addressing the unique challenges posed by Japan’s geographic landscape and the increasing impact of climate change.

Under their strategic partnership launched in March 2020, Rakuten Mobile and AST SpaceMobile have made significant progress in testing space-based mobile services. In April 2023, using standard smartphones, the companies successfully conducted the world’s first two-way voice calls between Midland, Texas, and Tokyo, Japan.

AST SpaceMobile’s testing program has also achieved milestones such as the world’s first 5G connection for voice and data between a satellite and an unmodified smartphone, with initial download speeds of 14 Mbps.

The collaboration aims to provide comprehensive coverage across Japan, ensuring connectivity even in challenging terrains and emergencies. By leveraging AST SpaceMobile’s innovative satellite technology, Rakuten Mobile seeks to revolutionize mobile communication infrastructure and enhance accessibility for all Japanese citizens.

TechGolly editorial team led by Al Mahmud Al Mamun. He worked as an Editor-in-Chief at a world-leading professional research Magazine. Rasel Hossain and Enamul Kabir are supporting as Managing Editor. Our team is intercorporate with technologists, researchers, and technology writers. We have substantial knowledge and background in Information Technology (IT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Embedded Technology.

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