Verizon Is Partnering With AST SpaceMobile to Use Satellites to Fix Dead Zones

Verizon has a new partner when it comes to providing satellite connectivity to users in the US. On Wednesday AST SpaceMobile, a satellite company that aims to provide connectivity from space, announced that it has reached a “strategic partnership” with Verizon that includes a $100 million commitment from the carrier. 

AST SpaceMobile had previously announced that it was working with AT&T on a similar plan to cover the US with cellular coverage from low-Earth orbit satellites (LEOs) from space. According to the satellite company, the deal will enable it to “target 100% coverage of the continental United States on premium 850 MHz spectrum” with the partnership “essentially eliminating dead zones and empowering remote areas of the country with space-based connectivity.” 

Space-based connectivity has become an increasing focus area for wireless companies as they look to fill in gaps in their coverage that traditional, land-based cell towers can’t cover. In addition to AST SpaceMobile’s work with AT&T, Verizon was previously discussing satellite connectivity with Amazon’s Project Kuiper while T-Mobile has announced a similar deal with SpaceX’s Starlink. 

Since it is using the 850 MHz low-band spectrum, users with recent devices may not need to upgrade to benefit as Verizon already uses the airwaves for some of its 4G LTE and 5G services. AST SpaceMobile says that its service “has been tested on all major brands of everyday smartphones in use today and is backward compatible with no changes required to the phone.”

Both AT&T and T-Mobile have similarly talked about how users won’t need to upgrade their devices to be able to connect to the satellites, though no carrier has specified if you will need to pay more for the feature or be on special plans to use the space-based connectivity. 

When Verizon inked its deal with Amazon in 2021, a carrier spokesperson said that it was looking into ways to connect directly to satellites from devices. The spokesperson also said that the partnership wasn’t exclusive on either side and while the goal was to “use this to make the entire map of the US red,” referring to Verizon’s color and its coverage maps where red indicates areas where you can find its wireless services, no timeline was given. Verizon tells CNET that it still plans to continue to work with Amazon’s Project Kuiper, which is still testing its satellites

AST SpaceMobile has already demonstrated test calls from space using a Galaxy S22 and AT&T’s network and says it plans to “deliver our first five commercial satellites to the launch pad in July or August of this year,” with plans to begin its initial operations at some point in 2025. 

T-Mobile and SpaceX announced earlier this year that the first satellites that support T-Mobile’s network have launched into orbit. 

T-Mobile’s deal with Starlink is exclusive to the carrier in the US, and while there is no timeline for when it will launch for users, the carrier says it plans to start with text messaging when it does go live, before expanding to support voice and data in the future. AST SpaceMobile says that its satellite broadband service supports video, voice and data.