January 10, 2023
Satellite base-station company Lynk has sent two more of its ‘cell-towers-in-space’ into orbit, boasting it is the OG of the satellite-direct-to-phone game.
Following its debut launch in April last year, Lynk has sent a couple more satellites into orbit as it builds what it calls its ‘cell-towers-in-space’ constellation, and has taken the opportunity to say that while many firms are now moving into the space, it was there first.
Lynk says its satellites are covered by ‘the world’s first and only commercial satellite-direct-to-standard-phone license’ which it received from the FCC in September last year. It points to a new deployer system that supports the launch of multiple satellites at one time on the same ESPA-ring port as key to its strategy, which apparently will enable the ‘affordable launch of many more satellites.’
“This launch extends Lynk’s leadership in the satellite-direct-to-standard-phone category,” said Charles Miller, CEO of Lynk. “While others have just figured out that satellite-direct-to-phone is a big deal, we invented and patented the technology in 2017, started testing the technology in space in 2019, and now have three commercial satellite-cell-towers-in-space. We are years ahead of everybody else.”
This is presumably a reference to the fact there have been a load of firms getting in on the satellite-direct-to-phone space recently, perhaps the most famous announcement of which was a collaboration between Starlink and T-Mobile in August last year.
Lynk claims to have signed commercial agreements with 25 operators in 41 countries, and is actively testing satellite-to-standard-phone connections in 17 countries on all seven continents. The intention of the entire endeavour is to provide connectivity to standard mobile phones in places that terrestrial towers don’t cover – an obvious example is remote places such as halfway up a mountain.
Lynk’s marketing implies satellite-to-phone tech is solving a bigger problem than that, however: “Today, only 10% of the world’s surface is covered by terrestrial mobile connectivity. This means that 90% of the planet is in ‘coverage black spots’, otherwise known as ‘0G’. Over three billion people per year with a mobile phone experience extended periods of disconnectivity. Another billion people per year will buy their first phone when there is affordable mobile coverage where they live and work. 0G is a problem for four billion people.”
The proportion of the populated landmass that lacks some form of terrestrial coverage and how often could probably be debated – tower coverage is pretty ubiquitous certainly in the developed world, and including the vast emptiness of the oceans into your equation is to put a bit of a spin on things. The other thing to point out is that none of the firms involved seem to be claiming the service is good for anything other than sending texts at the present moment.
As discussed on the latest Telecoms.com podcast, if you find yourself in a deadzone and you fall down a hole, get injured, or otherwise need to get word to the emergency services, you’d no doubt be grateful of the ability to send that text. But how much mass market appeal such a service can have is an open question, as is whether that market could support the huge amount of firms looking to make a return on such services.
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