AT&T CEO John Stankey (pictured) reportedly claimed it had an 18-month lead on rival T-Mobile US and SpaceX’s efforts to offer basic mobile services in remote areas of the country through satellite, as the battle around space connectivity heats up.

Stankey told Bloomberg AT&T started the process earlier meaning T-Mobile and SpaceX would now have to go through procedures it had already completed.

AT&T partnered with AST SpaceMobile on its satellite play, and they have approval from US regulators to use certain spectrum for transmissions at specific power levels.

The operator still needs to get approval from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for satellites to operate as cell sites.

T-Mobile and SpaceX plan to offer basic services to mobile phones on the second-generation of Starlink satellites, employing large antenna arrays to tackle coverage dead zones.

Stankey told Bloomberg AT&T was ahead in the required approval processes and noted the rival effort would not have a bird available to begin testing until mid-2023.

The AT&T chief added it was happy with its test data so far and the next step was to present its findings to the FCC.

Its initial use case will be for emergency services including its FirstNet offering, before launching a commercial option.

AT&T was among companies which sought to block SpaceX’s bid to deliver connectivity from a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites.