US satellite player AST SpaceMobile reportedly opened an R&D laboratory focusing on space technologies in India, as it identified the country as a potentially strong market for mobile broadband services.

The Economic Times (ET) reported the India facility is located in the city of Hyderabad and will operate under its new GM and VP of Global R&D services Narayana Pidugu, who joined in March.

It will be home to developing next-generation hardware and software, space-related technologies and network operations.

Chairman and CEO at AST SpaceMobile Abel Avellan told ET the company has significantly benefitted from working with scientists and engineers in India, adding the R&D launch and Pidugu’s appointment reflect its commitment to the country.

Currently, the company has around 100 engineers in India.

AST SpaceMobile is also exploring India-specific partnerships with operator and its financial backer Vodafone Group, and eventually with other providers to deliver its satellite-to-phone services in more areas with high connectivity gaps.

Pidugu added the company’s mission to close the gap “holds major significance” to India, where two-thirds of its population reside in rural locations.

Earlier this year, AST SpaceMobile trialled space-based voice calls via its BlueWalker 3 (BW3) test satellite. It recently announced BW3 had provided 4G networks, as it eyes 5G launch in the coming year.

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