SpaceX competitor Lynk is testing 5G mobile phone service from space


The rivalry for fast internet from space has just entered a new stage.

Lynk, a competitor to the much larger SpaceX, plans to offer an experimental 5G cellular base station aboard a mission in December, in conjunction with an undisclosed cellular partner. The experimental payload will be launched on Lynk’s second commercial satellite, company officials said.

“This test will demonstrate the ability to send a 5G signal from space to standard mobile devices on Earth“, Lynk officials wrote (opens in a new tab) end of September.

The test is a blow to SpaceX, which has already signed a deal with T-Mobile for cellular service but, unlike Lynk, does not yet have approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Lynk received the precious boost from the FCC just a few weeks ago.

Related: Starlink service endangered by proposed 5G plan, says SpaceX

Lynk and SpaceX are scrambling to market access to people living in rural areas who don’t have access to standard internet service. SpaceX has a fleet of thousands of Stellar Link satellites through which it plans to stream 5G broadband internet service, while Lynk has an emergency access plan through a orbital cell tower.

Lynk already tested a satellite-to-telephone service link last year, according to Via Satellite (opens in a new tab), and is rapidly expanding its service in an effort to stay ahead of the competition. “We are actively testing direct-to-home satellite services in 12 countries on five continents,” Lynk chief commercial officer Dan Dooley said in the same company statement.

The company’s patent allows the orbiting cell tower to connect to standard 5G devices in 55 countries, Lynk says.

5G service is a next-generation speed acceleration in cellular access that delivers better network speeds to support the Internet of Things or the growing fleet of connected devices in industries ranging from shipping to consumer devices.

Lynk already offers software-designed radios that can roam between slower, but still viable, 2G and 4G speeds for the mobile network operators it’s trying to entice as customers. SpaceX, meanwhile, recently complained to the FCC about plans to open up the prized 12 gigahertz band to fellow 5G competitor Dish, arguing that using the frequency would interfere with existing satellite communications. Starlink.

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