Lynk says it provides missing link for satellite voice call claims

It’s quite common for wireless vendors and service providers to claims a “first’ when it comes to wireless technology. Usually caveats are involved. Sometimes the distinction is achieving it on a real live network versus in a lab.

Today, Lynk Global announced its accomplishment revolves around video evidence of a two-way call between standard mobile phones connected via satellite. The video shows folks doing multiple voice calls using standard mobile phones, including Samsung to Samsung phones, connected via Lynk’s existing satellite-cell-towers in orbit.

Why is this significant? Because a few months ago, AST SpaceMobile announced the first direct voice connection from space, presumably beating Lynk to the punch. But they didn’t release a video like Lynk did.

Hearing Lynk CEO and co-founder Charles Miller tell it, it’s more a case of “it didn’t happen if there’s no video.”  

“There is no proof they did it,” Miller told Fierce. “Why not release a video or at least an audio recording of a voice call? My mantra is ‘show me the video.’”

The upshot points to the high-stakes race that is all about cell phones and space. “We think we’re first,” he said. “If they think they’ve done it, show us the video.”

Fierce reached out to AST SpaceMobile for comment. A spokesperson pointed to the April 25 press release and noted it includes quotes from executives at Rakuten, AT&T and Vodafone. “Engineers from Vodafone, Rakuten and AT&T participated in the preparation and testing of the first voice calls with BW3,” the statement said.

Multiple projects in play

Lynk’s business model is very similar to AST SpaceMobile in that they’re both partnering with mobile service providers to sell satellite direct to phones, but the size of the micro satellite Lynk is using is more comparable to that of Amazon’s Project Kuiper, OneWeb and SpaceX, Miller said.

Last month, PNCC in Palau was the first to launch a service using Lynk’s satellite-to-phone technology. It’s starting as an SMS texting service that eventually will extend across the country. While Palau might sound a bit obscure given the dozens of operators around the world that Lynk is working with, Palau was ready to move first and fastest, according to Miller.  

Other countries are expected to follow this year. Lynk hasn’t yet announced a U.S. mobile operator partner.

Messaging before voice 

Asked when Lynk expects to launch a commercial voice service, Miller said if a customer is willing to pay for it, they’re ready to pursue it. But most customers generally agree it makes more sense to start with messaging. That’s in part because it’s a much more forgiving technology.  

“Intermittent messaging is a lot better service than intermittent voice calls,” he said, while also noting that messaging can serve a lot more people than voice.  

Lynk has launched eight low Earth orbit satellites, retired five and is currently using three satellites, with plans to launch three more this fall. Eventually, the plan is to have 5,000 satellites to blanket the world, he said.

"We want to build a broadband cell network in the sky that connects billions," he said. "We need to build a large cellular mesh network in the sky. It's a huge opportunity."