Cellphones-from-space company aims to sign up a dozen mobile

Cellphones-from-space company aims to sign up a dozen mobile operators

26 May 2021 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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A US-based satellite company says it has applied for a licence from the regulator that will enable it to connect cellphones directly, where there is no tower reception.

Lynk Global, based in Virginia, said it has filed for a commercial operator’s licence with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Now it wants to sign up a limited number of mobile operators to use Lynk’s satellites to extend coverage outside the range of existing cell towers.

Charles Miller, CEO of Lynk, said: “Because using cellular frequencies from space has never been done before, we believe that being licensed by the FCC will help regulators worldwide embrace this ground-breaking technology.”

Lynk tested the technology using a standard mobile phone in February 2020, though solely with a text message to a phone in the Falkland Isles rather than a voice call or broadband data.

The company said yesterday: “The start-up’s patented technology will eventually allow anyone with an existing cellphone to stay connected, anywhere in the world, at all times. Most importantly, Lynk’s system requires no changes to the phone.”

Lynk wants to put an initial 10 satellites in orbit and said it expects the licensing process to take 10-12 months, “allowing Lynk to begin global service next year,” said the company. “This is the first step in Lynk’s plans for a larger constellation that will grow to several thousand satellites to begin continuous global service in 2025.”

It aims for a full constellation of 5,000 satellites and says that will “provide broadband speeds”.

Lynk, which says it has contracts with the US Air Force and the UK Space Agency, is signing up mobile operators to test the system. “We actually have too many testing partners at this time,” said Miller. It “will be limiting initial commercial services to, at most, a dozen mobile network operators globally.”

Satellite executive Bob Brumley, who is developing his own plans for a service that will link data centres, said in a post on LinkedIn: “I have been an advisor to Lynk for several years. This is a real milestone for — what I consider — the most well thought-out, tested business model in our industry.”

Lynk notes on its website: “Today’s mobile phone users pay more than $1 trillion a year in total for service. Yet on average, at any given moment, about 750 million phone owners have no connectivity because they live, work or travel outside the range of a ground-based cell tower.”

It adds: “Another 2.5 billion people don’t have phones, many because they lack affordable connectivity. The economics of ground-based cell towers make it cost prohibitive to expand into remote areas lacking coverage, such as in rural North America, south-east Asia, Latin America, or sub-Saharan Africa.”