Seraphim portfolio company AST&Science has today begun trading on Nasdaq as “ASTS” following the successful completion of its SPAC merger.

The AST team have been able to achieve the extraordinary in a remarkably short amount of time. When we first met Abel and the team in early 2018, we were immediately struck by two things; the potential of AST to bridge the divide between the satcoms and telecoms sectors, and the drive of Abel to build a massive business that would positively impact the lives of billions of people.

One of our primary theses at Seraphim is how the next generation of Space companies are helping to make science fiction become science fact. With its ambitious plans of looking to deploy a constellation of ‘cell towers in Space’ – each of which will be nearly the size of a football field – to deliver ubiquitous direct-to-handset broadband connectivity, AST certainly meets this criteria.

Today, more than half of the world’s population lacks access to the mobile broadband that most of us take for granted in our everyday lives. Equally, for the 5 billion of us that do have mobile phones, we still grapple with the limitations and unreliability of mobile coverage, particularly outside of major urban areas.

For the $1trillion global mobile wireless service market, this poses major problems; the industry already spends $150billion a year on capex for deploying new base stations and cell towers to expand their networks, and yet the industry overall is growing at a little over 1% p.a. as many markets have reached saturation point. 

By providing seamless connectivity direct to a user’s handset without requiring any additional hardware, AST’s constellation will help mobile network operators fill in the gaps between their islands of coverage, helping them access the billions of people yet to connect whilst also driving up revenues from those already connected.

It’s this ability to connect to any smartphone user directly that sets AST apart from both incumbent satcoms operators and the nascent ‘mega constellations’ from the likes of SpaceX and OneWeb that are also aiming to blanket the world with ubiquitous connectivity. For all of this massive increase in connectivity being delivered from Space, all of these companies remain to a greater or lesser extent constrained by virtue of requiring their customers to use expensive, cumbersome antennas and/or specialist handsets to connect to their networks. It’s for this reason that the 10 largest satcom operators have average revenues of c.$1.5billion, compared to $90billion+ for the 10 largest terrestrial telecoms operators.

By removing the need for expensive 3rd party hardware to connect to their ‘cell towers in Space’, AST will therefore be addressing some of the key pain points of both the telecoms and satcoms industries, whilst potentially helping billions of people access high speed internet connectivity for the first time.

As the only non-corporate VC investor, it has been a privilege to work with Abel and the team over the last few years. Having now accessed the funding required to launch the first plane of its constellation, we are incredibly excited to see this phenomenal team now starting to put a small dent in the universe.