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AST SpaceMobile opens research centre in Hyderabad's Sattva Knowledge City

The facility will focus on next-generation hardware, software, space-related technologies and operations

Trai bats for private players in satellites

BS Reporter Chennai

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AST SpaceMobile, a company building the first and only space-based cellular broadband network accessible directly by standard mobile phones, announced on Monday the opening of a new research and development (R&D) services hub and space technology development Centre in Hyderabad.

The state-of-the-art facility will focus on next-generation hardware, software, space-related technologies and operations. Narayana Pidugu, a veteran of the technology and space industries who joined the company earlier this year, will direct the new facility as general manager and vice president of global R&D services. Vodafone, Rakuten, American Tower, Samsung NEXT and Bell Canada are also investors in AST SpaceMobile.

The Hyderabad site, located within a technology park in Salarpuria Sattva Knowledge City, is expected to host a research and development laboratory, network operations Centre and engineering space.  The operation aims to attract talents from India and further advance AST SpaceMobile’s goals, it said.

Abel Avellan, Chairman and chief executive officer of AST SpaceMobile, which is headquartered in Midland, Texas, attended the facility’s inauguration on Monday. “Over the years, we’ve significantly benefited from collaborating with many talented scientists and engineers in India,” said Avellan. “Creating our own Centre in the country and hiring Narayana demonstrates our trust and commitment to the region, which generates about 1.5 million talented engineers each year.”

“India has very talented engineers in both hardware and software. The country also does pioneering work in space, satellites, and telecommunications sectors,” said Pidugu. “I am excited to join AST SpaceMobile in Hyderabad as it provides a powerful platform to bring all of them together.”

AST SpaceMobile’s Hyderabad office opening comes as the company continues to make telecommunications history with its BlueWalker 3 (BW3) test satellite. In April, AST SpaceMobile used BW3 and everyday smartphones to place the first-ever space-based voice calls. Then in June, AST SpaceMobile announced BW3 had provided 4G LTE capabilities, with initial download speeds reaching more than 10 Mbps. Evaluation of BW3’s capabilities continues, with enablement of 5G cellular broadband as the company’s next major test activity.

“About two-thirds of people in India live in rural areas. So AST SpaceMobile’s mission to connect the unconnected holds major significance to this country,” Pidugu added.  AST SpaceMobile technology is designed to expand coverage for wireless companies, filling in gaps and dead zones in their networks. This could help bring cellular broadband services to hundreds of millions of people across the globe who still lack access to reliable cellular service.

The company has agreements and understandings with more than 35 mobile network operators globally that have approximately 2 billion existing subscribers, including Vodafone Group, Rakuten Mobile, AT&T, Bell Canada, Orange, Telefonica, TIM, Saudi Telecom Company, Zain KSA, Etisalat, Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison, Telkomsel, Smart Communications, Globe Telecom, Millicom, Smartfren, Telecom Argentina, Telstra, Africell, Liberty Latin America and others.

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First Published: Jul 24 2023 | 4:54 PM IST

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