Safaricom plans satellite internet with AST SpaceMobile to enhance broadband offerings

03 August 2023

Safaricom has unveiled plans to launch its own satellite internet service in the country, directly competing with SpaceX’s Starlink offering. The MNO will collaborate with AST SpaceMobile to provide the service.

The primary objective of Safaricom’s satellite internet service is to enhance its broadband offerings, including WiFi, cellular networks, and fibre optic cables. By leveraging AST SpaceMobile’s satellite technology, Safaricom aims to improve connectivity in remote areas and deliver affordable broadband access to rural communities.

AST SpaceMobile is developing a unique network that employs a constellation of satellites to provide satellite-based Internet access, allowing direct communication with common 4G smartphones. This makes AST SpaceMobile the first company to enable smartphones to connect to a space-based broadband network.

The company’s prototype satellite, Bluewalker 3, underwent initial testing in 2022 and will undergo an official trial in Kenya later this year, involving Safaricom and other African operators in the Vodacom Group. The trial will span 49 countries across Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean, utilizing 200 satellites.

Following a successful trial, AST SpaceMobile plans to expand its satellite deployments in collaboration with Vodacom, extending continuous communications to 4G devices not only in Africa but also in other regions.