Satellite service provider Lynk Global signed its first commercial operator agreements, enabling their customers to connect directly to its Low Earth Orbit (LEO) birds from standard mobile phones.
Bahamian operator Aliv and Telecel Centrafrique of the Central African Republic are the two customers, with service to commence in early 2022.
Aliv stated Lynk Global will help its customers maintain connectivity during extreme weather and Telecel Centrafrique cited the potential to bridge a digital divide by boosting coverage.
Lynk Global co-founder and CEO Charles Miller told Mobile World Live it is in negotiations with operators worldwide, with smaller businesses first because they “can make a decision faster”.
Miller explained the strongest interest is from operators covering hard-to-reach areas, with connectivity to the satellites enabled by provisioning SIMs: “We look like a roaming partner”.
The company is seeking a US operating licence. Miller noted regulator the Federal Communications Commission is interested in its ability to back-up mobile networks during natural disasters. “We think this could really save a lot of lives”.
Lynk Global has two satellites in orbit with two more due to launch soon as it targets a total of 5,000 by 2026.
Mobile users can currently send and receive text messages using the satellites. Miller noted voice is possible, but the economics are better for SMS because operators can charge for each.
Lynk Global will offer broadband internet once more satellites are launched: more connections now would knock others off the network, Miller explained.
He pitched Lynk Global as complementary to SpaceX’s Starlink and OneWeb, offering an alternative for people who can’t afford to access their ground stations.
“We will never compete head-to-head against Starlink”.
“Starlink or OneWeb will always be faster because they have an 18-inch antenna and we use the antenna in your phone”.
Vodafone-backed AST SpaceMobile is also working on satellite-to-phone connectivity, winning a deal with Smart Communications in July.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back