back to article Vodafone claims first space-based 5G phone call – no modifications needed

Vodafone is claiming to have made the world's first space-based 5G call placed using an unmodified handset, thanks to a test satellite operated by AST SpaceMobile. Interest in delivering services to mobile phones from orbiting satellites has been growing since Apple unveiled its Emergency SOS feature for the iPhone that allows …

  1. elsergiovolador Silver badge


    This is unfair. How people who fear 5G are supposed to take this down now?

    You can't exactly climb to space?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unfair

      No, this is great news. If 5G moves to outer space, you only need tinfoil on the top of your head.

      1. Binraider Silver badge

        Re: Unfair

        There are credible academic papers out there that state that the use of tinfoil hats can actually amplify the signal.

        I believe one of them was reported on in El Reg.

  2. tony72

    Size Matters

    "SpaceMobile's point of differentiation is its huge antenna, which makes it capable of putting down a small spot beam which limits interference. Starlink's v2 satellites have a tiny antenna, by comparison, which means bigger spot footprints and more potential for interference," Ray said.

    I wonder, is he talking about the Starlink V2 mini's, or the full size V2's? The AST SpaceMoblie antenna is 64m^2, the full size Starlink V2 is 25m^2, so about 40% of the size. A lot smaller, but I'm not sure about "tiny".

    1. Vulch

      Re: Size Matters

      Also it's all very well being able to put down a spot beam, but the tighter the spot is the fewer phones are actually in the coverage area. At the limit the entire spot is focussed on Auntie Mabel chatting to Cousin Doris and a mile away there's a damaged hiker trying to dial the 9's and unable to get a connection. Starlink on the other hand is providing service to the entire National Park with its ginormous footprint.

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

        Re: Size Matters

        Plus that small spot will be moving so quick that you won't be able to do anything in while in its coverage zone. And they'll need absolutely loads of them with really efficient handovers.

  3. xyz Silver badge


    I do that whatsapp intercountry "phone call" umpteen times a day using an unmodified phone via Starlink, (other VOIP apps are available) so the only difference would appear to be that I didn't need a lug around a dish. However if I was right in the sticks in Africa or someplace I wouldnt have wandered off into a vast nowhere without many supplies, a fuck off 4x4 and the aforementioned dish and inverter. Sounds to me like Vodafone is trying to talk up a Musk level POS purchase.

  4. Mishak Silver badge

    I just hope

    I just hope my phone doesn't roam onto satellite "accidentally" - people who lived in Dover used to connect to French networks, and ended up with huge bills (back in the bad days of roaming).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I just hope

      I forgot my work iPhone on during an international Lufthansa flight recently. After landing, I noticed an SMS had arrived.: "Welcome to the global satellite network! Blablabla 9.7€ per MB blabla". And was really glad I had turned off data some time ago.

      I was even happier that I had turned my personal phone off, because data roaming was enabled on this one...

      Those plane cells are definitely sneaky.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I just hope

        Same on cruise ships. Always turn data roaming of before boarding.

  5. SteveCoops

    Ah AST are back! I loved their Bravo PCs.

  6. DS999 Silver badge

    If spotbeam size matters

    I guess this is using EXISTING 5G bands?

    That means it wouldn't work if you're just a little ways out of cellular range, because it couldn't limit its spot beam enough to avoid interfering with the licensed use of the band by the terrestrial 5G cellular towers.

    I guess if it is the same carrier it may not matter, but it seems like there would be a lot of blank spots in the places you REALLY want service, though you'd have no problem using it when you are well and truly in the middle of the nowhere with no 5G coverage (at least on the particular 5G band(s) they use) for dozens of miles in any direction.

    It will be interesting to see what kind of issues pop up in the places they roll this out.

  7. greenwood-IT

    5G why do we need it?

    So satellites can pick up my 5G mobile signal in space... I'm just so glad I'm not paranoid. Although it does beg the question as to why my 5G signal is non existent at home, maybe I need to stand on the roof to get a bit closer?

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