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AST SpaceMobile Updates on BlueWalker 3 Sat-to-Cell Tests

By Rachel Jewett | April 3, 2023

Rendering of an AST SpaceMobile satellite. Photo: AST SpaceMobile

AST SpaceMobile gave an update on BlueWalker 3 satellite-to-cell tests in its full year financial results, reporting initial tests show the downlink signal strength needed to reach 5G cellular broadband speeds can be met with the technology. 

“We are happy to announce that the initial test results indicate that the downlink signal strength necessary to reach 5G cellular broadband speed can be met with our technology,” CEO Abel Avellan said on a  March 31 call with investors. “We have demonstrated our patented technology to validate doppler and delay compensation, a key component — a key part of the component to be able to do 5G speed, and we continue to target to complete cellular broadband speed directly to standard modified phones.” 

The company is continuing to test and plans to release joint test results of testing with mobile network operator (MNO) partners in the future. 

AST SpaceMobile is also pushing back the first launch of its five Block 1 BlueBird satellites, the satellites that will provide commercial service. BlueWalker 3 is a test satellite. These satellites were expected to launch this year but are now expected to launch in the first quarter of 2024.

Block 2 of the BlueBird satellites is also expected to start to launch in 2024, but the company said in filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), that it will need to raise additional capital to deploy Block 2. AST SpaceMobile will need to raise an additional $550 million to $650 million to build and launch all 20 of its BlueBird Block 2 satellites. 

The company ended the fourth quarter with just under $240 million cash on hand. 

The company reported $13.8 million in revenue in 2022, from its stake in NanoAvionics. It sold the stake to Norway’s Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace. Following the completion of the sale on September 6, 2022, AST SpaceMobile no longer generates revenue and does not expect to generate revenue until it launches commercial service, expected in 2024 at the earliest, according to the filings. 

CFO Sean Wallace said the company believes it has enough cash on hand to fund the next 12 months of operations, including the construction and launch of five Block 1 BlueBird satellites.

Wallace said AST SpaceMobile is looking at structured debt, government financing, the public debt markets, preselling capacity and selling equity in both private and public transactions to raise the additional funds. “We are optimistic that we have a window of many quarters to determine the best financing alternatives and are hopeful that our access to capital will continue to remain strong, especially if we’re able to continue to execute our strategy,” Wallace said.