Smart inks MOU with US firm to provide space-based mobile coverage in PH

AST SpaceMobile, a Texas-based company that is said to be building the first and only space-based cellular network accessible by standard mobile phones,  revealed on Tuesday, July 6, that it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Smart Communications.

Screenshot shows Smart Communications CEO Al Panlilio (left) and AST SpaceMobile chairman and CEO Abel Avellan

The deal would explore opportunities to extend SpaceMobile cellular broadband connectivity to the Philippines after the service is launched.

“Our collaboration with Smart to look into opportunities to offer the SpaceMobile service to their customers in rural communities would allow the company to offer affordable broadband cellular access to the unconnected for the first time ever,” Abel Avellan, chairman and CEO of AST SpaceMobile, said in a statement.

“With this MoU, we have entered into agreements and understandings with mobile network operators which collectively cover approximately 1.4 billion mobile subscribers.”

Under the MoU, AST SpaceMobile will seek to offer cellular broadband network coverage to approximately 70 million Smart subscribers following execution of definitive agreements and successful launch of the SpaceMobile service.

“This collaboration between Smart and AST SpaceMobile strongly supports this vision, as we continue to invest in our networks and explore the most relevant innovations that will enable us to continue expanding the reach of our services alongside delivering exceptional customer experience across the Philippines’ more than 7,000 islands,” said Alfredo S. Panlilio, Smart Communications president and CEO.

“This new satellite communications technology aims to help us accomplish our mission of connecting the entire nation, where nobody gets left behind.”

The agreement comes after reports surfaced that SpaceX of tech billionaire Elon Musk was planning to launch in the country its Starlink satellite broadband project late this year or early 2022.

This news may have prompted to satellite TV operator Cignal – a sister firm of Smart under the PLDT Group – to launch its own satellite broadband service in the country last May. But the subscription cost is rather prohibitive with the lowest package of 2Mbps available for P6,500.

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