Omnispace, based in Tysons, Virginia, wants to be the first company to deliver a global 5G non-terrestrial network with connectivity directly to mobile devices from its low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites.
The company believes the future of communications is hybrid — where satellites extend and augment terrestrial mobile networks.
Another company, AST SpaceMobile, is already doing something similar, building a space-based cellular network designed to be accessible directly by standard mobile phones. AST SpaceMobile, based in Midland, Texas, launched its first satellite in March 2019. And it has taken its second satellite, BlueWalker 3, to Cape Canaveral in Florida with launch plans for the end of the summer.
But Omnispace’s Chief Commercial Officer Brian Pemberton said that what differentiates Omnispace is that from the beginning it has taken a standards-based approach. The company has been working with the 3GPP to operate its future satellite constellation in accordance with non-terrestrial network (NTN) specifications as defined by the 3GPP in its Release 17 for 5G.
Details of the 3GPP standardization work related to NTNs is spelled out in this white paper prepared by 5G Americas.
“We’ve been instrumental along with Apple, Qualcomm, Nokia, Ericsson and others in developing the standards that we will be building into our satellite communications,” said Pemberton.
He said in contrast AST SpaceMobile is developing proprietary and patented technology for its mobile satellite network.
For its part, Omnispace earlier this year completed the launch of two satellites through its Omnispace Spark program.
Omnispace has raised $140 million to date. It has about 40 full time employees and about 40 contract workers.
Both Omnispace and AST SpaceMobile plan for their satellite networks to be combined with terrestrial mobile networks to provide ubiquitous mobile device connectivity.
In fact, today Omnispace announced a partnership with the Philippine wireless company Smart Communications.
The Philippine operator is interested in use cases such as 5G connectivity in remote areas, incorporating IoT and sensors for use in monitoring weather disturbances and natural calamities, and augmenting network coverage for disaster relief.
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