The competition for fast internet from space has just entered a new stage.
Lynk, a competitor to much bigger ones SpaceX, plans to deliver an experimental 5G mobile base station in a mission in December, working with an undisclosed mobile 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 on standard mobile devices enabled EarthLynk officials wrote (opens in new tab) at the end of September.
The test is a shot at SpaceX, which has already signed a deal with T-Mobile for mobile phone services but, unlike Lynk, does not yet have approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Lynk received the FCC awards a few weeks ago.
Related: Starlink service at risk from proposed 5G plan, SpaceX says
Lynk and SpaceX are fighting for market access to people living in rural areas who don’t have access to standard Internet services. SpaceX has a fleet of thousands Starlink satellites through which it plans to broadcast 5G broadband internet service, while Lynk has a plan for emergency access via an orbital cell tower.
According to Via Satellite, Lynk already tested a satellite-to-phone service connection last year (opens in new tab), and is rapidly beefing up services in an effort to stay ahead of the competition. “We are actively testing direct-to-phone satellite services in 12 countries on five continents,” said Dan Dooley, Lynk’s chief commercial officer, 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 boost in mobile 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-engineered radios that can move between slower, but still viable, 2G and 4G speeds for the mobile network operators it’s trying to attract as customers. SpaceX, meanwhile, recently complained to the FCC about plans to open up the prized 12 gigahertz band to another 5G competitor, Dish, arguing that use of the frequency would interfere with existing communications on Starlink satellites.