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World First: Satellite in Orbit Transmits Directly to a Standard Mobile Phone on Ground

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Mar 18, 2020, 10:15 AM   by Rich Brome   @rbrome

Virginia startup Lynk Global has successfully demonstrated new technology that allows satellites in low-earth orbit to communicate directly with standard, unmodified mobile phones on the ground. In multiple verified tests starting February 24th, Lynk was able to broadcast an emergency alert containing a text message from one of its test platforms orbiting in space, using standard GSM technology, which was successfully received by an off-the-shelf Android phone in the Falkland Islands. While satellite phones and GPS were designed for space–ground communication, common mobile phone standards such as GSM and LTE were not. Phones are specifically designed to connect only to land-based towers that are within a certain distance and not moving faster than certain relative speeds. Therefore it was thought that such space–ground cellular communication was impossible. Lynk is one of several startups working on this technology; Texas-based AST & Science is working on a similar concept. Lynk does not plan to compete with land-based mobile carriers, but rather to provide service only where there is no service from land-based mobile networks. It aims to connect people in extremely remote areas. It also hopes its technology can assist in emergencies, delivering emergency alerts to people in remote areas that would otherwise miss them, and offering connectivity to first responders when natural disasters have damaged land-based networks. With an initial fleet of several dozen satellites, the company should be able offer service to every point on earth at least once per hour. The company hopes to eventually offer continuous global coverage with a fleet of thousands of satellites.

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