Rakuten Mobile announced this week that it has obtained preliminary licenses from Japanese regulators to begin testing direct-to-mobile satellite communication. The company said it is working with satellite maker AST SpaceMobile and its recently launched BlueWalker 3 satellite to provide customers with ubiquitous connectivity even where there isn’t terrestrial cell coverage.
AST SpaceMobile has differentiated its planned service from other burgeoning direct-to-satellite mobile broadband services by claiming to be building the first and only space-based cellular broadband network accessible by off-the-shelf unmodified mobile phones. AST SpaceMobile launched its BlueWalker 3 satellite in September on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The company announced earlier this week that BlueWalker 3 had been successfully deployed.