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Rakuten Mobile Plans 2026 Satellite Service Launch

Photo by NASA / Unsplash

TOKYO, Japan - Rakuten Mobile announced plans to launch nationwide satellite-to-mobile services in 2026.  

The initiative is in partnership with AST SpaceMobile (NASDAQ: ASTS), a Texas-based company building a space-based cellular broadband network accessible by standard smartphones.

The service aims to bridge connectivity gaps in remote regions, mountainous areas, and islands while providing a communications lifeline during natural disasters. 

Japan faces heightened disaster risks and has experienced instances, such as the 2024 Noto Peninsula earthquake, where mobile infrastructure outages hampered response efforts.

"Rakuten Mobile is committed to expanding mobile connectivity across Japan,"

said Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO of Rakuten Group. 

Satellite connectivity aims to fill gaps where terrestrial networks are limited.

The collaboration between Rakuten and AST Space Mobile begins in 2020. 

The partnership culminated in April 2023, when the first two-way voice call from space to unmodified phones is expected to occur.

While promising, the companies acknowledge that the timing and scope of the 2026 service launch could be affected by factors beyond their control.