The company that’s covering for AT&T’s failures (Verizon’s and T-Mobile’s too)


Woman on cellphone.

“I’m talking to you from my rural pile. Yes, I actually have signal.”

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Tech companies can sometimes make it easy to be unreasonably annoyed.

They make such exalted promises and then deflate customers with aberrant ease.

Who doesn’t get annoyed when they’re out somewhere, pick up their phone, and find that they’re suddenly completely out of bars? (Not those sorts of bars. Stop it.) 

No signal here, I’m afraid. No, no wifi either. Too bad, huh?

It’s hard not to blame cellphone carriers, isn’t it? They spend untold amounts on ads that feature coverage maps. Then, sometimes even in populated places, no bars. More often in rural and mountainous — or even vaguely hilly — areas, no bars.

Some fear that the bar to universal coverage may be, well, money. I was moved, then, to peculiar twitching on hearing there’s a company trying to do something about this.

Alluringly named AST SpaceMobile, these engineers and space exploration types have created a satellite that, so they claim, will create “the first and only space-based cellular broadband network accessible directly by standard mobile phones.” With no modifications to your phone, apparently.

The plan is to launch this thing into low-level space on August 15. Yes, weather permitting. Yes, from Cape Canavaral. Where else would you expect from space exploration people?

The satellite has a name: BlueWalker 3. I understand SkyWalker 3 was taken. Actually, the company told me the name BlueWalker signifies that “our solar panels are expected to have a blueish color and our satellite walks among the stars.”

Oh, those creative space types. You have to love them.

AST SpaceMobile also offered these thoughts: “BlueWalker 3 carries a 693-square-foot phased array that is designed to test cellular broadband communications directly with standard mobile phones, from space, for the first time.”

That sounds like quite a big satellite, not that I measure satellites all that often.

Perhaps, though, it’ll manage better than your local cell tower. The company claims it’ll help fill the gaps in current connectivity that doom many.

AST SpaceMobile reveals that it’s working with “Vodafone, Rakuten Mobile, Orange and others.” Naturally, I asked the company about American others.

An AST SpaceMobile spokesperson told me: “We have not disclosed who we are testing with in the US, although AT&T was quoted as saying they looked forward to testing us.”

Aha. AT&T. I tried to find the quote and here it is, from earlier this month: “We are happy that the FCC has approved AST SpaceMobile’s application. We are looking forward to working with AST to test this technology.”

What a thought. Your extremely expensive gadget and your not so cheap carrier plan could actually work all the time?

One day, gadget-using human, perfection may be yours.

Shortly before you become a gadget yourself, that is.



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