Rakuten Mobile obtains preliminary licenses for testing of AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 Low-Earth Orbit Satellite for Direct-to-Mobile Communications

- End-to-End testing with BlueWalker 3 low earth orbit test satellite begins in Japan in the next several months. - Rakuten Symphony software to be integrated into AST SpaceMobile’s space-based cellular network.

Rakuten Mobile, Inc. ("Rakuten Mobile") has obtained preliminary experimental test station licenses on November 10, 2022, to conduct mobile communication tests and preliminary verification in Japan using AST SpaceMobile’s low earth orbit satellite, BlueWalker 3.

 AST SpaceMobile is building the first and only space-based cellular broadband network accessible directly by standard unmodified mobile phones. In the future, Rakuten Mobile aims to offer mobile communication services using AST SpaceMobile’s planned network to connect to smartphones in mountainous areas and remote islands that are commonly out of range of mobile communication services, as well as to strengthen communication network resilience in times of disaster.

On September 11, 2022 (Japan Standard Time), AST SpaceMobile successfully launched the test satellite BlueWalker 3 into orbit from the USA. On November 14, AST SpaceMobile also announced the successful deployment of the communications array for its test satellite, BlueWalker 3, in orbit.

In order to conduct preliminary verification and communication tests between the test satellite launched by AST SpaceMobile, a gateway earth station in Japan and smartphones on earth, Rakuten Mobile made applications to the Tohoku Telecommunications Bureau for a Gateway Experimental Test Station license and to the Kanto Telecommunications Bureau for a Mobile Terminal Experimental Test Station license, and both applications have now been approved.

Upon receiving the licenses, Rakuten Mobile will begin to prepare a gateway earth station in Fukushima Prefecture to test and verify direct communication between BlueWalker 3 and mobile devices in mountainous areas in Hokkaido.

To enable testing with Rakuten Mobile and other carriers, Rakuten Symphony will provide a variety of software from its Symworld™ product portfolio to AST SpaceMobile to be integrated into the company’s satellite system and enable the company’s space-based cellular broadband network. The software to be integrated includes Rakuten Symphony’s vRAN (virtualized Radio Access Network) software, OSS (Operations Support Systems) and BSS (Business Support Systems) software.

Rakuten Mobile will continue its efforts to expand Rakuten's coverage area and improve communication quality so that customers can enjoy comfortable and convenient communication services anywhere.

The 693-square foot array on Blue Walker 3 successfully completed deployment.


Overview of SpaceMobile infrastructure


Left: Test satellite "BlueWalker 3"


Right: Gateway experimental test station

(*1) Rakuten Group, Inc. has invested in and entered into strategic partnerships with AST.
Press Release: Rakuten Invests in U.S.-based AST & Science and Forms Strategic Partnership 

(*2) This is the first time in the world that the concept of a cellular broadband network transmitting from space has been announced. (As of March 3, 2020, according to AST)

(*3) Photos courtesy of AST SpaceMobile https://ast-science.com/2022/06/13/bluewalker-3-launch-date/


*Please note that the information contained in press releases is current as of the date of release.

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