Verizon signed a strategic partnership with fledgling direct-to-device satellite player AST SpaceMobile to provide its users with coverage in dead spots, a deal which includes a conditional financial commitment of $100 million from the operator.

The satellite company, which already has a deal in place with rival AT&T, highlighted it would now target complete geographical coverage of the continental US on 850MHz spectrum.

Verizon’s $100 million commitment comprises $65 million in commercial prepayments and $35 million in convertible notes. Over half of the prepayment sum is subject to conditions, which were not detailed in the statement.

AST SpaceMobile CEO Abel Avellan said its progress in the US with Verizon and AT&T represented a “transformational commercial milestone,” adding it would be able to “essentially” eliminate cellular dead zones.

Verizon SVP technology and product development Srini Kalapala backed use of its spectrum and AST’s satellite network to provide “essential connectivity” where traditional infrastructure was unavailable.

Shared aim
AT&T head of network Chris Sambar also welcomed the development, stating it “reinforces the shared commitment to providing nationwide space-based broadband direct to everyday cell phones”.

“Together with AST SpaceMobile we have agreed to welcome another mobile operator in the US to bring in more spectrum and more coverage to create an even better solution and enhance service capabilities,” Sambar added.

As part of its previous backing in the provider AT&T made a $20 million revenue commitment payable on launch and successful operation of five commercial satellites. AST’s first commercial satellites are expected to be propelled into space by August.

AST’s core proposition is the ability to deliver satellite signals directly to standard, unmodified mobile phones. It has deals in place with operators across a range of geographies and outside of the two major US operators also has strategic investment from players including Vodafone Group and Google.

While AT&T and Verizon have now both partnered AST SpaceMobile for direct-to-device, the country’s other major operator T-Mobile US has a deal in place with SpaceX to eventually offer basic services through Starlink satellites and its mid-band spectrum.