Lynk acquires FCC license for commercial satellite-to-phone service

Given all the attention swirling around big-name entities, one might get the impression that Lynk Global is getting drowned out of the satellite-to-mobile-phone messaging.

But Lynk co-founder and CEO Charles Miller doesn’t see it that way.

“We don’t feel like we’re getting crowded out by people who are doing vaporware and PowerPoint engineering,” he told Fierce. “We’re flying real hardware in space and doing it. All they’re doing is getting a lot of excitement in the market and educating end users that this is technically feasible.”

The company on Friday announced that it had received a license from the FCC for a satellite-to-direct-to-standard-mobile-phone service. The license enables Lynk to launch commercial services for its global constellation of satellites later this year, which it says will pave the way for universal mobile connectivity.

Lynk is in an increasingly crowded space as the likes of SpaceX and T-Mobile were among the latest to announce intentions of mixing cellular with satellites for broader coverage. More recently, Apple revealed plans to use Globalstar satellites to power its Emergency SOS via Satellite service, which launches in November. These also come after AST SpaceMobile started to pursue its direct-to-handset strategy

Ultimate in roaming

Since late 2018, Lynk has received experimental testing licenses from the FCC and it has licenses in 18 countries to do testing. What the company received on Friday is the world’s first satellite-direct-to-phone license for transmitting from space commercially.

It still needs landing rights from each country to transmit from space into their countries, but “we’re in a great position” because many countries want this capability for their citizens, he said.

“This further supports what we’ve been saying for a while,” he said. “We’re years ahead of everybody else and we’re going to be the world’s first commercial operator for satellite direct to phone.”

Lynk, which employs about 40 people, is striking deals with mobile operators throughout the world. The company said it has signed contracts with 15 mobile network operators (MNOs) in 36 countries representing over 240 million mobile subscribers and is actively testing in 10 countries.

It’s in active conversations with three U.S. mobile operators, but he’s not naming anyone. “We’ve been working with testing with two of them and we have a MOU with one of them,” he said.

He said these other deals by well-known names are just free marketing for Lynk. In fact, “I think it’s wonderful what Apple’s done,” he said, but it’s limited to the new iPhone 14 and to one-way messaging. People probably aren’t going to sit still in an emergency in the hopes that their message has reached someone who can help.

The whole industry should be focused on saving lives, but he said Lynk will provide two-way messaging and it will work with Android and iOS, doing more than emergency messaging. It uses UHF that already exists in phones, he said.

Lynk said it launched Lynk Tower 1, the first satellite covered by the FCC license, on April 1. Lynk is scheduled to launch three more satellites — also known as Lynk Towers 2, 3 and 4 and Lynk’s 7th, 8th, and 9th cell-towers-in-space — later this year as the company moves toward deploying its service globally.