Lynk Global satellites produce a communications beam that sweeps over an area, offering coverage to mobile devices. In the image shown, each red dot represents a mobile phone on the U.S. East Coast connected with Lynk's fifth satellite launched. Credit: Lynk Global

SAN FRANCISCO – Lynk Global satellites have connected with thousands of unmodified smartphones, tablets, internet-of-things devices and vehicles, the Fall Church, Virginia, startup announced Feb. 8.

The mobile devices required “zero modifications,” Lynk CEO Charles Miller told SpaceNews. “In fact, these devices did not know they were even participating in our test.”

Lynk was testing the ability of its fifth satellite to connect with the company’s own smartphones, when thousands of other devices that lacked terrestrial network service detected the Lynk signal and “automatically requested a connection,” Miller said by email. “Our satellite then connected them.”

In the recent tests, Lynk offered direct two-way connectivity between its satellite and smartphones, tablets, internet-of-things devices, cars, trucks and tractors in the Bahamas, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The tests also demonstrated Lynk connections with smartphones on eight of the world’s ten largest mobile networks.

Lynk plans to begin offering its global ‘cell-towers-in-space’ service later this year. Proving its satellites can connect to unmodified devices is an important technical milestone, the company said in a Feb. 8 news release.

Since the company was founded in 2017, Lynk has signed contracts with seven mobile network operators. Lynk plans to announce additional pacts with mobile network operators later this year.

“The mobile phone is the most important piece of technology in the lives of billions of people,” Miller said in a statement. “It has revolutionized the way we communicate and transformed economies and societies around the world. Yet, existing terrestrial-based towers do not, and will never, provide coverage for vast regions of our planet.”

As a result, Lynk intends to provide “affordable, reliable mobile connectivity everywhere,” Miller added.

Lynk achieved the direct-to-smartphone connections with its fifth satellite design.

Lynk has a pending Federal Communications Commission license to operate an initial set of satellites under smallsat rules established in 2019. The rules are designed to clear the way for speedy approval of constellations with no more than 10 satellites. Due to the small constellation size, initial Lynk service is likely to be limited to messaging and emergency alerts.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...