Illustration: The Verge

AST SpaceMobile has ramped up demonstrations of voice calls, texts, and video calls via satellite over the last year, using 4G LTE and 5G connections with download bandwidth reaching 14Mbps. Now the company says that a previous memorandum of understanding with AT&T to work on a space-based broadband network for phones has become a “definitive commercial agreement,” just in time for AST’s first five commercial satellites to launch this summer.

The FCC has gotten things rolling on a framework (PDF) for companies interested in building these types of services, with the idea of what Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel called a single network future. “We won’t need to think about what network, where, and what services are available. Connections will just work everywhere, all the time,” said Rosenworcel last year.

According to a statement, the five satellites AST SpaceMobile will launch from Cape Canaveral “will help enable commercial service that was previously demonstrated,” but there’s no mention of changes to deal with the problems of light pollution.

Apple has already added satellite-based messaging links to the iPhone, and Android is preparing for similar features, but a high-speed connection would take things to a different level. With Starlink also testing satellite-to-cellular links, dead zones could be a thing of the past in a few years.

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