Lynk touts 'huge' interest in roaming to space

Lynk on Tuesday formally submitted its application to the FCC to provide mobile cellphone services from space. The company hopes to build a constellation of up to 5,000 satellites that will directly connect to customers' existing phones – obviating the need for a bulky satellite phone – and it plans to act as a roaming partner to wireless network operators on Earth.

"We're going to be the first company in the world to operate this service," Charles Miller, CEO of Lynk, told Light Reading, explaining that Lynk expects to receive FCC approvals for its plan within a year, thereby paving the way for the company to begin providing commercial services to customers by 2022.

As Light Reading previously reported, that timeline puts Lynk ahead of its rival SpaceMobile in the race to connect existing cellphones to orbiting satellites. The companies are the vanguard of a trend that is merging terrestrial networks with those in space.

Although Lynk's Miller offered a decidedly upbeat assessment of his company's chances, hard details on Lynk's plan remain few and far between. The company has touted "dozens of testing agreements" with mobile network operators, and Miller said, "there is a huge amount of interest in Lynk's service … we actually have too many testing partners at this time." He added that the company plans to launch services with a dozen operators next year – one per country – and will expand its roaming roster thereafter.

However, he declined to name any of Lynk's mobile network partners. Light Reading previously reported that Lynk tested its services with Smith Bagley, a tiny wireless network operator offering services under the Cellular One brand in East Arizona.

Miller also declined to offer any specifics around Lynk's services, such as the speeds and capabilities users could expect. He said Lynk would offer a customer sign-up process similar to the one touted by rival SpaceMobile, whereby customers who travel outside their primary operator's network coverage area would receive a text message asking whether they would like to roam onto Lynk's network to stay connected.

But Miller did suggest that Lynk's network capabilities would improve as it adds additional satellites to its operations. He said the company hopes to launch next year with 10 satellites and then expand to "several thousand" in order to provide continuous global service by 2025.

According to Lynk's financial filings with the FCC, Miller owns 51% of the company's voting stock while Mark Foster, Jeff Ganek and Robert Poulin of Blazar Ventures own 10.7%.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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