AT&T Plans to Support Remote Calls and Texts With Satellites, Too

T-Mobile announced back in August that it’ll be teaming up with SpaceX to use its Starlink microsatellite network for emergency mobile network coverage. But AT&T is cooking up its own partnership, to use AST SpaceMobile’s satellite network to provide coverage in hard-to-reach areas of the US.

AT&T will use AST SpaceMobile’s network to supplement its mobile network, but only for emergencies at first, including for its FirstNet network for emergency responders. But later, the carrier will use the satellite network to help connect consumer communications, as Bloomberg reported earlier.

AT&T will start testing satellite integrations with its mobile network later this year in Hawaii and Texas, the carrier confirmed to CNET. It isn’t yet a done deal yet, though: Should the testing be successful and the integration be commercially viable, and if AT&T and AST SpaceMobile can hammer out an agreeable arrangement, then the plan will go forward using satellite coverage to fill in the gaps for the carrier’s mobile network.

But at least the satellite connectivity will work with AT&T’s current LTE and 5G spectrum, so customers may not need new phones to benefit from the expanded coverage, according to a statement the carrier provided to CNET.

“The direct-to-mobile approach that we are helping AST SpaceMobile test is intended to complement and integrate with our existing mobile network,” the statement read.

AT&T is also continuing to work with other providers on enabling specific use cases for its satellite-and-mobile network, such as maritime communications for oil and gas rigs.

This isn’t AT&T’s first attempt to add satellite coverage to its mobile network. Back in September 2021, AT&T announced a partnership with a different satellite companyOneWeb, to service hard-to-reach areas with satellite internet, but only for business and enterprise clients.

Verizon hasn’t been sitting out the satellite connectivity race, either. A year ago, the carrier revealed it’s planning to use Amazon’s Project Kuiper Satellites to boost its mobile network, though the carrier hasn’t given public updates about progress on this project.