Press Release

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

November 18, 2022
  • 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.

TOKYO - NOVEMBER 18, 2022: 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.
The 693-square foot array on Blue Walker 3 successfully completed deployment.
Overview of SpaceMobile infrastructure.
Overview of SpaceMobile infrastructure.
Test satellite "BlueWalker 3."
Test satellite "BlueWalker 3."
Gateway experimental test station.
Gateway experimental test station.

(*1) Rakuten Group, Inc. has invested in and entered into strategic partnerships with AST SpaceMobile. 

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 

About Rakuten Mobile

Rakuten Mobile, Inc. is a Rakuten Group company responsible for mobile communications, including mobile network operator (MNO) and mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) businesses, as well as ICT. Through continuous innovation and the deployment of advanced technology, Rakuten Mobile aims to redefine expectations in the mobile communications industry in order to provide appealing and convenient services that respond to diverse customer needs.

About Rakuten Symphony

Rakuten Symphony is reimagining telecom, changing supply chain norms and disrupting outmoded thinking that threatens the industry’s pursuit of rapid innovation and growth. Based on proven modern infrastructure practices, its open interface platforms make it possible to launch and operate advanced mobile services in a fraction of the time and cost of conventional approaches, with no compromise to network quality or security. Rakuten Symphony has headquarters in Japan and local presence in the United States, Singapore, India, Europe and the Middle East Africa region. For more information, visit: 

How can Symphony help?
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Notice for more information.