Satellite player AST SpaceMobile claimed to have deployed the largest commercial communications array in low Earth orbit (LEO), ahead of testing a satellite-to-phone service with mobile operators over the coming months.

The BlueWalker 3 test satellite is key to the company’s plan to offer mobile broadband connectivity to standard devices in underserved areas.

AST SpaceMobile CEO Abel Avellan stated the successful unfolding of its 693-square-foot antenna was a major step forward. The satellite is expected to have a surface view of more than 300,000 square miles.

Rakuten Group and Vodafone Group-backed AST SpaceMobile plans to connect to unmodified mobile devices from space. It had deals in place with operators including AT&T, Bell Canada, MTN Group, Orange, Telefonica, Etisalat and Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison, among others.

Chris Sambar, AT&T network president, stated an opportunity to work with AST SpaceMobile to “further extend our network reach including to otherwise remote and off-grid locations”.

AST SpaceMobile joins an increasingly-crowded LEO satellite-to-phone sector, with rivals including Lynk Global, SpaceX, Amazon and OneWeb each targeting opportunities, and a growing range of device makers enabling existing, or adding the relevant connectivity.