Lynk from Virginia (USA) sent the Shannon satellite into orbit three months ago on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. After conducting early tests, the company said that “hundreds” of mobile phones in the United States, Britain and the Bahamas were able to connect to the satellite as it flew over those territories like a normal cell tower.
“In essence, our satellite looks like a standard cell tower to your mobile phone,” – said Charles Miller, co-founder and CEO of Lynk. Unlike the satellite services that companies such as SpaceX, OneWeb, Amazon and Telesat are launching or planning to launch, no terminal or special software is required to connect a mobile phone to a Lynk satellite.
Lynk is designed to serve remote areas where mobile carriers such as T-Mobile or Verizon in the United States do not have coverage. According to Miller, a number of technical problems had to be solved in order to realize the idea. The main one was to overcome the noise of other devices when sending a signal from a mobile phone to a satellite.
Another challenge was to compensate for the huge Doppler shift that occurs between the satellite and the mobile phone due to the high speed of the spacecraft. Lynk engineers had to develop technology that compensates for the Doppler shift in space so that the phone “sees” a supposedly stationary tower.
Lynk starts small. With a single satellite, coverage is only available for a few minutes a day at several degrees of latitude. Miller said that next year, with 10 satellites at an altitude of about 500 km, it would be possible to cover most of the planet every few hours. By 2023, with about 100 satellites, coverage will be provided every 5–20 minutes. To ensure the continuous operation of the network, the company will need to launch 1,500 satellites into orbit.