Falcon 9 Transporter-4
A Falcon 9 launched Lynk Global's first commercial satellite in April 2022 on SpaceX's Transporter-4 dedicated rideshare mission. Credit: Space Launch Delta 45

TAMPA, Fla. — Regional mobile operator bmobile has started using Lynk Global’s direct-to-device satellites to extend coverage to more parts of the Solomon Islands, a 700,000-person nation northeast of Australia.

The companies announced Nov. 6 that bmobile’s subscribers can now use their existing cellular phones to periodically send and receive text messages in Makira, one of the country’s nine provinces, by connecting to Lynk’s low Earth orbit (LEO) constellation.

The terrestrial telco previously only had coverage across four other provinces in the Solomon Islands.

Dan Dooley, Lynk’s chief commercial officer, said bmobile plans to expand across the entire island nation next year as Lynk adds more satellites to improve coverage and reduce latency.

More than three-quarters of Solomon Islands’ residents live outside urban areas in mostly small communities, Dooley said. 

With just three satellites in LEO, Lynk’s initial service only enables low-bandwidth services such as texts and SOS alerts a few times a day while the spacecraft pass overhead.

The Falls Church, Virginia-based venture plans to deploy three more one-meter-squared satellites this fall for a proposed constellation of 5,000 satellites.

Lynk also plans to launch an initial service this year with bmobile’s parent company Telikom in nearby Papua New Guinea.

Financial details about these partnerships were not disclosed.

Lynk has announced partnerships with two other telcos so far, also in island nations where it is difficult to deploy terrestrial communications infrastructure: Vodafone Cook Islands and Palau National Communications Corporation.

While analysts say the addressable market for direct-to-device could be worth more than $100 billion, significant obstacles including spectrum availability and service affordability remain challenging for this emerging capability. Many of those who currently live outside terrestrial network coverage worldwide have little disposable income.

AST SpaceMobile is due to give an update on its plans to take on the market when it reports earnings results Nov. 14, after recently securing the funds it needs to develop a dedicated direct-to-device constellation.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...