AST SpaceMobile, a company building a space-based cellular broadband network accessible directly by standard mobile phones, is partnering with Zain to provide satellite-based connectivity in Saudi Arabia.

The company this week announced a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Zain to collaborate towards new telecom solutions and satellite-based digital services in Saudi Arabia and aim to increase access to mobile services in remote locations.

BlueWalker 3 AST SpaceMobile.jpg
– AST SpaceMobile

"We are thrilled to cooperate with Zain in Saudia Arabia. We hope this collaboration will further access to reliable, space-based cellular broadband for current and future mobile users in the country," said Chris Ivory, chief commercial officer of AST SpaceMobile.

Founded in 2017, the company’s first test satellite, Bluewalker 1 was launched in 2019; Bluewalker 2 was canceled. Its latest test satellite, Bluewalker 3, launched last year.

AST was planning a constellation of almost 170 satellites; the first 20 were originally due to enter operation by 2023, with another 90 deployed through 2024. According to more recent press releases, it seems to have revised its constellation plans down to 100.

“We are committed to expanding our digital services and communications to deliver an inclusive ecosystem that covers the whole Kingdom with the highest service quality and reliability, thereby enhancing our role in achieving a more connected and sustainable world,” said Eng. Abdulrahman Al-Mufadda, chief technology officer of Zain. “We are confident that our collaboration with AST SpaceMobile could help to potentially provide space-based cellular broadband connectivity in the Kingdom, particularly in remote areas. In doing that, we reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that every citizen and resident in this precious land is connected wherever they may be.”

The company has previously announced commercial agreements with Vodafone and AT&T, with MoUs signed with Telefonica, Orange, Indosat Ooredoo, Tigo, Telstra, Smartfren Telecom in Indonesia, and others. It has also signed an agreement with Rakuten and TIM Brasil.

This week also saw Zain announce that it had signed an agreement with Emaar, The Economic City (EEC) for landing the Jeddah to Marseille (J2M) subsea cable system. A subsystem of the PEACE cable, J2M will connect Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to Marseille, France. It is set for service in early 2023.

EEC is the master developer of King Abdullah Economic City.

Get a monthly roundup of Edge news, direct to your inbox.