AST SpaceMobile stock surges 30% after Verizon partnership for satellite internet to phones

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AST SpaceMobile stock surges 30% after Verizon partnership for satellite internet to phones

The company’s Block 1 BlueBird satellites undergoing thermal vacuum testing in preparation for launch.

AST SpaceMobile

Satellite-to-phones service provider AST SpaceMobile announced a partnership with Verizon on Wednesday, adding to the company’s recent deal with AT&T to provide remote coverage across the United States.

AST SpaceMobile is building satellites to provide broadband service to unmodified smartphones, in the nascent “direct-to-device” communications market.

The company’s chairman and CEO, Abel Avellan, touted AST’s agreements with Verizon and AT&T as “essentially eliminating dead zones and empowering remote areas of the country with space-based connectivity.”

Verizon’s deal effectively includes a $100 million raise for AST, as well, in the form of $65 million in commercial service prepayments and $35 million in debt via convertible notes. The companies said that $45 million of the prepayments “are subject to certain conditions” such as needed regulatory approvals and signing of a definitive commercial agreement.

AST stock surged as much as 37% in early trading from its previous close at $5.33 a share. The company’s stock has more than doubled in the past month.

The Verizon partnership follows a similar pattern to AT&T’s work with AST. Back in January, AT&T was a co-debt investor in the company alongside Google and Vodafone. The companies then established the commercial agreement earlier this month, which “lays out in much more detail how we will ultimately offer service together,” AST’s Chief Strategy Officer Scott Wisniewski said in a statement to CNBC.

AT&T told CNBC on Wednesday that it welcomed AST’s partnership with Verizon.

“[It] reinforces the shared commitment to providing nationwide space-based broadband direct to everyday cell phones,” AT&T Head of Network Chris Sambar said in a statement.

A variety of major players are pursuing the direct-to-device, or D2D, opportunity, seeing a chance to expand the mobile communications market to any place on Earth that “cellular signals are unreachable through traditional land-based infrastructure,” as Srini Kalapala, senior vice president of technology and product development at Verizon, described in a statement Wednesday.

A view from onboard the satellite, captured after deploying the 693-square foot array.

AST SpaceMobile

Smartphone makers, service providers and satellite companies alike are working or partnering on D2D projects. Rivaling AST’s deals is SpaceX’s Starlink, which has teamed up with T-Mobile. Additionally, Apple has been spending heavily to provide its Globalstar-supported “Emergency SOS with Satellite” service, which it rolled out with iPhone 14 models.

AST expects to launch its first five commercial satellites later this year. SpaceX, boasting more than 3 million Starlink customers, is aiming to roll out the addition of its T-Mobile-supported phone service later this year. Elon Musk’s company earlier this month completed what it said was the “first video call” via social media using its satellites connected to unmodified phones.

Correction: Apple has been spending heavily to provide its Globalstar-supported “Emergency SOS with Satellite” service. An earlier version misstated a company name.

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