Link May Hit Starlink and Apple as FCC Rules Space-Based Texting • TechCrunch


SpaceX and T-Mobile may have grabbed the headlines last month with their exciting pre-announcement of the StarLink connection and Apple, but Link was in the works and could steal their lunch from satellite-to-telephone communications. Already working – with any device. In fact, they’ve got FCC approval for it, which means you just have to pick a mobile network partner to market it here in the States.

Late last year, Lync demonstrated direct satellite-to-phone (and back) emergency communications service with a test orbital cell tower. To point your phone at an invisible point in the sky, away from an orbital broadband connection or legacy satellite band, Link provides occasional (think every half hour or so) 2-way SMS service over conventional cellular bands. Reaching Orbit. It is intended for emergencies, for check-ins from the back country and for broadcasting information in places where networks are closed, such as disaster zones.

Sending and receiving a text to an antenna moving several thousand miles per hour is not easy: CEO Charles Miller confirmed that it took them a few years to do so. So when major companies say they are working on it, he doesn’t feel much heat.

That’s the advantage of inventing the technology five years ago: there’s a lot of hard stuff that no one has done yet. I’m not saying they can’t, but because they haven’t yet.” “We proved it and patented it in 2017. We did it from space yesterday and the day before yesterday – we have the only active cell tower in the world in space.”

Sure, you could have a thousand of them, and it wouldn’t matter unless you had regulatory approval and partners in the mobile space. That’s the next step for Link, and although they have 15 contracts covering 36 countries around the world and are preparing to go commercial, the US FCC is the “gold standard” for this type of testing and certification.

That’s not just because they have the best facilities — the FCC’s approval process is a battleground where companies try to one-up each other. For example, Hughes, which operates several communications satellites, opposed Link’s application on several grounds (which the FCC set), and Amazon’s Kuiper demanded that Link’s operational data be shared with everyone (it was denied). One meaningful request was partially agreed to from the National Organization of Radio Astronomers, which asked for various operational restrictions, such as not polluting radio-quiet areas.

There is a step further with the FCC. Today’s order generally approves Link’s satellite services to operate without interfering with other services, radio bands, etc. A separate approval is required when Link acquires a go-to-market partner – but the more difficult and nuanced question of security and interoperability has already been addressed.

And how does that apply to the market segment? Lync expects to offer commercial services elsewhere in the world, and Miller said it expects to commercialize testing licenses it has acquired in other countries, which mobile providers should be leading the way. As for working in the US, it’s the same thing.

But who will be the link partner, and what will the resulting service look like? Miller said that regardless of what the commercial product looks like, Lynk offers its services to anyone in case of an emergency – so you don’t get caught in a storm just because you’re on the wrong network. It can be used to cover an area regardless of alerts or information, such as telling victims of natural disasters nearby shelter coordinates.

A recent pass-through view of hundreds of payphones in Mongolia.

Think of it as a roaming charge – if you have AT&T coverage but not their network, it won’t stop you from calling 911 or downloading TikTok, you’ll just have to charge it later. And a 50-cent fee (or whatever) is the last thing anyone thinks about when they’re swinging their ankles 20 miles from civilization.

Miller refused to comment on the competition, because in reality there is nothing yet – it’s all theoretical. T-Mobile and Starlink service is still a twinkle in their eye; AST Spacemobile is preparing for the first launch; Skylo is using geosynchronous satellites that work with specific instruments; Apple is also limited to the latest phones and has limited messaging capabilities. Of course, there are dedicated satellite tracking devices that you can buy, but nothing beats what you already have.

There’s no available launch date in the US, and of course Link will need to launch the rest of its 10-satellite constellation before it can provide the level of service it’s told the FCC — but you can take a trip to space these days. If you get the money every week or two. So expect to hear more about this lifesaving service in the coming months, but don’t count it out this ski season just yet.



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