Omnispace, based in Tysons, Virginia, hopes to be the first company to deliver a global 5G non-terrestrial network with direct connectivity to mobile devices via its low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites.
According to the company, the future of communications will be hybrid, with satellites extending and augmenting terrestrial mobile networks.
Another company, AST SpaceMobile, is already working on something similar, constructing a space-based cellular network that will be directly accessible by standard mobile phones. In March 2019, AST SpaceMobile, based in Midland, Texas, launched its first satellite. It has also transported its second satellite, BlueWalker 3, to Cape Canaveral in Florida, with plans to launch it at the end of the summer.
However, Omnispace’s Chief Commercial Officer Brian Pemberton stated that what distinguishes Omnispace is that it has always taken a standards-based approach. The company has been collaborating with the 3GPP to operate its future satellite constellation in accordance with the 3GPP’s non-terrestrial network (NTN) specifications as defined in Release 17 for 5G.
This white paper prepared by 5G Americas details the 3GPP standardization work related to NTNs.
“We’ve been instrumental in developing the standards that we’ll be building into our satellite communications, along with Apple, Qualcomm, Nokia, Ericsson, and others,” Pemberton said.
In contrast, AST SpaceMobile is developing proprietary and patented technology for its mobile satellite network, according to him.
Omnispace, for its part, completed the launch of two satellites earlier this year through its Omnispace Spark program.
Omnispace has so far raised $140 million. It employs approximately 40 full-time employees and approximately 40 contract workers.
Omnispace and AST SpaceMobile both intend to combine their satellite networks with terrestrial mobile networks to provide ubiquitous mobile device connectivity.
In fact, Omnispace today announced a collaboration 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 monitoring weather disturbances and natural disasters, and expanding network coverage for disaster relief.