Japanese mobile operator Rakuten Mobile has outlined plans to provide satellite-to-mobile service in Japan in 2026.

The telco will work with AST SpaceMobile to launch the service in the country.

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Rakuten notes that it aims to provide direct satellite-to-mobile services for text messaging and broadband comms through voice and video calls on commercially available smartphones.

The operator states that there is a growing need for space-based communications such as low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites in the country, due to a high risk of natural disasters, plus many remote islands and mountainous regions, where it's hard to reach with standard comms.

"Remote islands and mountainous regions present unique challenges that require innovative solutions, while the threat of natural disasters, coupled with the effects of climate change, has also heightened public awareness of the importance of mobile connectivity for daily life," said Mickey Mikitani, chairman and CEO of Rakuten Group and chairman of Rakuten Mobile.

Rakuten and AST SpaceMobile have worked together since March 2020 as part of a strategic partnership.

In April, the two companies completed a two-way satellite call via unmodified smartphones using the BlueWalker 3 (BW3) satellite.

The call was made from Midland, Texas, to Rakuten in Japan over AT&T spectrum, while using a Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone.