SpaceX and T-Mobile may have grabbed the headlines with Their flashy pre-advertisement about the Starlink connection last month and Apple last week, but Lynk was working and might steal their lunch with a satellite phone connection that actually works – with whatever device is out there. In fact, hmm I just got FCC approval for itwhich means it’s just a matter of choosing a mobile network partner to bring to market here in the US.
link View an emergency call service direct from satellite to the phone (and back) Late last year with its experimental orbital cell tower. Far from an orbital broadband connection or old satellite range that makes you point your phone to an invisible spot in the sky, Lynk will provide intermittent SMS (think every half hour or so) over normal cellular bands just happening into orbit. It is intended for emergencies, backcountry check-ins, and information dissemination in places where networks are down, such as disaster areas.
It’s not easy to send a text message to or from an antenna moving several thousand miles per hour, and CEO Charles Miller has confirmed that it took a few years for that to happen. So when the big companies say they’re working on it, it doesn’t feel much heat.
“This is the benefit of inventing technology five years ago: There are a bunch of hard things that no one has done yet. He told me I’m not saying they can’t, just that they haven’t done it yet.” We validated and patented this in 2017. …we did it from space yesterday and the day before – we have the world’s only active cell tower in space.”
Of course, you can have a thousand of them and it only matters if you have regulatory approval and mobile partners. This is Lynk’s next step, and while they have 15 contracts spanning 36 countries around the world and are preparing for a commercial launch, the US Federal Communications Commission is the “gold standard” for this type of testing and validation.
That’s not just because they have the best facilities – the FCC approval process is also a de facto battleground as companies try to run an intervention with each other. For example, Hughes, which operates a number of communications satellites, intercepted Lynk for various reasons (set by the Federal Communications Commission), and Amazon’s Kuiper required Lynk to share operational data with anyone else (which was not granted). One important request that was partially approved came from the National Organization of Radio Astronomers, which requested various restrictions on operation, such as not polluting radio quiet areas.
There is more to this step with the FCC. Today’s order approves the operation of Lynk’s satellite services in general, having shown that it will not interfere with other services, radio bands, etc. Separate approval will be needed when Lynk finds a partner to go to market with – but the more difficult and lengthy question of safety and intervention has already been answered.
How will the piece go to market? Lynk expects to offer commercial service elsewhere in the world, and Miller said he expects to convert test licenses obtained in other countries into commercial licenses, a process in which mobile service providers will have to take the lead. As for working in the United States, it’s the same.
But who will be Lynk’s partner, and what will the resulting service look like? Whatever the commercial product looks like, Miller said, Lynk will make its services available to anyone in an emergency — so you won’t be stuck in a blizzard just because you’re on the wrong network. It can also be used to cover an area with alerts or information regardless of the signal, such as telling victims of natural disasters the GPS coordinates of nearby shelters.
Think of it as a roaming fee – if AT&T has coverage but you don’t have their network, it won’t stop you from calling 911 or even loading TikTok, just get rid of it later. Drawing 50 cents (or whatever) is the last thing anyone thinks of when they roll their ankle 20 miles from civilization.
Miller declined to comment on the competition, as there hasn’t been any competition yet – it’s all theoretical. T-Mobile and Starlink are still shining in their eyes. AST SpaceMobile is preparing for its first launch; Skylo uses geosynchronous satellites that work with specific hardware; Likewise, Apple is only for its latest phones and the messaging capability is limited. Of course there are dedicated satellite messaging hardware you can buy, but nothing beats the one you already have.
There is no set launch date for availability in the US, and indeed Lynk will need to launch the rest of its constellation of 10 satellites before it can provide the level of service it has prescribed to the FCC – but these days you can go into space every week or two. If you have money. So expect to hear more about this potentially life-saving service in the coming months, but don’t count on it this ski season just yet.