Rakuten Mobile Ventures Into Space: Plans Satellite-to-Mobile Service for Japan

In a strategic move to overcome geographical challenges and enhance network coverage, Rakuten Mobile has unveiled plans to introduce satellite-to-mobile service in Japan. Teaming up with AST SpaceMobile, a space-based communication solutions provider, Rakuten Mobile aims to roll out this groundbreaking service by 2026. The collaboration aims to provide seamless connectivity across Japan, including hard-to-reach mountainous regions, remote islands, and areas prone to natural disasters.

Revolutionizing Connectivity through Space

Rakuten Mobile envisions this initiative as a significant step towards achieving comprehensive network coverage through space-based technologies. By leveraging AST SpaceMobile’s expertise in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, the telco intends to offer direct communication with commercially available smartphones, ensuring connectivity even in the most challenging terrains.

Addressing Japan’s Unique Connectivity Challenges

The announcement comes in response to Japan’s specific connectivity challenges, marked by the high risk of natural disasters and the presence of numerous remote islands and mountainous regions. Rakuten Mobile underlines the critical need for space-based communication services in such scenarios. The Noto Peninsula Earthquake of 2024 served as a stark reminder, with recovery routes being cut off, leading to delays in emergency response efforts.

Collaborative Partnership and Technological Milestones

Rakuten Mobile’s collaboration with AST SpaceMobile dates back to March 2020, marked by strategic investments in the space communication solutions provider. The partnership has focused on the development of a planned space-based mobile service for Japan, utilizing LEO satellites to enable direct communication with standard smartphones.

The successful completion of two-way voice calls between Midland, Texas, and Tokyo, Japan, using AST SpaceMobile’s LEO test satellite, BlueWalker 3, in April 2023 marked a significant technological milestone. The test demonstrated the capability to establish communication with commercially available smartphones, highlighting the potential of LEO satellites to ensure mobile phone connectivity regardless of ground conditions.

Riding the Wave of Space Connectivity

As the partnership between Rakuten Mobile and AST SpaceMobile unfolds, the plan is to continue harnessing the capabilities of LEO satellites to provide widespread connectivity across Japan. The venture aligns with the growing trend of utilizing space-based technologies to address unique challenges and usher in a new era of seamless, reliable connectivity.

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