Startup Lynk said it successfully transmitted a message from a satellite in space to a standard, Android-powered GSM phone on the ground.
The company said the test shows its technology works – an important milestone along the company's path toward commercializing its offering.
Lynk posted a video of the test, conducted February 24 in a remote location in the Falkland Islands where it would not interfere with other operations. It also linked to a longer version of the video that features some salty language from the company's engineers celebrating the successful test.
Lynk CEO Charles Miller told The Verge the company delivered the transmission from equipment it sent to the International Space Station in December aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Astronauts on the ISS attached the transmitter to a Cygnus cargo spacecraft that remains in orbit.
Next up, the company plans to launch roughly a few dozen satellites, each weighing around 55 pounds, in order to potentially begin providing basic emergency services as early as this year.
Racing toward connections
Lynk is racing with rival startup SpaceMobile from AST & Science to connect existing cellphones to satellites. SpaceMobile earlier this month notched a major $110 million Series B round of funding from the likes of Japan's Rakuten, Europe's Vodafone, cell tower giant American Tower, real estate company Cisneros and Samsung's venture capital arm, Samsung Next.
AST & Science said it successfully tested its technology via its BlueWalker 1 satellite that launched in April, but the company declined to answer any questions from Light Reading about the test.
The market opportunity for the companies is significant. Their respective services promise to connect to mobile customers' existing cellphones wherever they go, even if they travel outside the reach of a terrestrial mobile network. The technology essentially promises to remove cellular dead spots.
Both Lynk and AST & Science have said they plan to act as space-based mobile network operators, signing roaming agreements with terrestrial 4G and 5G operators.