Startup Lynk said it has been testing its service across hundreds of phones per minute, and that it expects to soon receive regulatory approvals for its plans to offer cellular connections from space.
The company also disclosed what will likely be its first commercial offering: ten-cent text messages in locations without cellular coverage.
"Lynk is repeatedly registering hundreds of mobile phones per minute. We have done so in three different countries (US, UK and Bahamas)," the company's CEO, Charles Miller, wrote in response to questions from Light Reading.
Miller's responses dovetail with comments he provided to Payload, a publication that tracks the space industry. Miller said Lynk is working with two unnamed mobile network operators (MNOs) in the US as the company's satellites pass over the Eastern seaboard. He said the company's satellites have been registering phones in that location that are not covered by terrestrial networks. All of those unconnected mobile users could be serviced by Lynk's satellites, Miller explained.
He also said that Lynk has officially filed an application with the FCC to launch commercial services. He said that none of the big US mobile network operators have voiced opposition to Lynk's plans in comments to the agency. "It looks like they kind of actually like what we're doing," he said of the operators.
Miller reiterated that Lynk is hoping to launch commercial services by next year, and that it's planning to do so with roughly a dozen mobile network operators around the world. Already Lynk has announced commercial agreements with Aliv in the Bahamas and Telecel Centrafrique in the Central African Republic.
However, Lynk has not yet announced any agreements with operators in the US. The company's work across the Eastern seaboard of the US is part of Lynk's testing efforts and doesn't necessarily stem from commercial agreements.
Like its rival AST SpaceMobile, Miller said Lynk expects to initially provide texting services to its mobile network operator customers. Under Lynk's business model, the company hopes to act as a roaming partner to terrestrial network operators, allowing their customers to roam onto its satellites when they venture beyond the reach of terrestrial networks. However, Lynk expects that its initial constellation of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites will only have enough capacity to provide texting services rather than data connections or voice calls.
"We have to parse out the bandwidth we have, for both business and ethical reasons. Everyone gets a little bit of connectivity, rather than giving some people more connectivity and knocking everyone else off. Take a five-minute voice call. We can do 5,000 or 10,000 SMS messages instead," Miller explained.
Miller said Lynk hopes to launch commercial services with a handful of terrestrial mobile network operators as soon as July of next year, after it conducts another round of fundraising. It hopes to eventually offer full-fledged broadband services by 2025, when it expects to operate a constellation of 5,000 satellites. Lynk's rival AST SpaceMobile has similar plans, but already counts major backers, including Vodafone and AT&T.
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