Satellite-direct-to-phone telecoms company Lynk Global has announced the successful launch, deployment and initial on-orbit check-out of Lynk Tower 1, which is set to be the world’s first commercial cell-tower-in-space.
The spacecraft is the company’s sixth “cell-tower-in-space” satellite and is now in position to become the first satellite covered by Lynk’s application to US comms regulator the Federal Communications Commission for a global commercial licence to operate a satellite-direct-to-standard-phone service.
The firm is addressing what it says is a problem whereby only 10% of the world’s surface is covered by terrestrial mobile connectivity and the remaining overwhelming percentage is in “coverage black spots”, otherwise known as “0G”.
Lynk believes more than three billion people a year, with a mobile phone, experience extended periods of disconnection. Also, it says a further billion people a year refuse to buy their first phone because they don’t have mobile coverage where they live and work, making 0G a problem for four billion people.
Lynk regards the launch of the world’s first commercial cell-tower-in-space is a first effort to begin solving the world’s 0G problem.
The technology in Lynk Tower 1 is an upgrade of Lynk’s fifth satellite, which connected to thousands of unique devices in the autumn of 2021, including smartphones, feature phones and cellular internet-of-things (IoT) devices such as cars, trucks, iPads and John Deere tractors.
Lynk Tower 1 was designed and constructed at Lynk’s Falls Church, Virginia facilities. It incorporates significant improvements in power systems, reaction wheels, star trackers, Ka-band radios, and upgrades to Lynk’s cell tower base station software stack. These improvements derive from Lynk’s previous five test flights and are the result of the company’s in-house “rapid-do-learn-loop” satellite development process.
“With the launch of Lynk Tower 1, Lynk is positioned to begin commercial service later this year and provides the world’s first true satellite-direct-to-phone service to citizens across the globe,” said Lynk CEO and co-founder Charles Miller. “For our flagship carrier partners, today’s news means we are only months away from helping them solve the world’s ‘0G problem’ and enabling their subscribers to connect everywhere.”
The company says it has flown, almost literally, in the face of other companies which, it says, have taken years to design and test new spacecraft concepts. Lynk’s spacecraft development process is based on a rapid-do-learn-loop strategy, where it can iterate and fly new spacecraft technologies several times a year.
“We learned a ton from our fifth satellite in late 2021,” added Lynk CTO and co-founder Tyghe Speidel. “Those lessons have already been implemented in our sixth satellite. Many told us this was impossible. It’s not. This technology is now very real, with three more satellites launching in the next six months as we roll out initial commercial services.”
Lynk has to date signed nine contracts with mobile network operators (MNOs) and plans to begin global commercial service in 2022 with a dozen flagship operators. Lynk Towers 2, 3 and 4 are already under construction and will also be launched this year. Lynk Towers 1-4 will allow millions of mobile phone owners to connect to a satellite using a commercial service provided by their MNO.
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