The new partnership will match Lynk satellites with BICS’ network, giving mobile network operators (MNOs) a new option for reaching some of the remote parts of the world
Direct-to-device satellite connectivity is becoming an increasingly hot topic in the telecoms sector, with a flurry of dealmaking coming to light in recent weeks.
This week’s announcement comes in the form of a new partnership between satellite operator Lynk and international connectivity specialist BICS, aiming to offer customers direct-to-device satellite connectivity services via MNOs, rather than engaging with consumers themselves.
The partnership will see Lynk’s ‘cell tower in space’ technology – a growing low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation – leverage BICS’ network, which the duo will use as a springboard to offer connectivity services to MNOs in markets around the world, helping them reach their most remote customers.
The duo suggests that their primary target of their partnership is the 6% of the world’s population that have no connectivity at all, often due to being too difficult and economically unviable for operators to cover with terrestrial infrastructure. This lack of connectivity has huge social and economic consequences for the global community, leaving roughly 450 million people locked out of the digital world.
According to the partners, their initial coverage areas will include North America, the Caribbean, Latin America, South-East Asia, and several rural areas in Africa.
Customers will not need a new smartphone in order to connect to the satellites, nor will the MNO partner be required to roll out any additional hardware or software for roaming integration.
“Mobile service is taken for granted by so many people who live in cities and suburbs, but we need to remember that billions of people still experience extended periods of disconnectivity, and hundreds of millions live without any connectivity,” said Charles Miller, Lynk CEO and co-founder. “Being left out of the digital world creates barriers to economic growth and social improvement — trapping hundreds of millions in the deepest poverty. It also eliminates access to basic emergency services, making life more dangerous. Our partnership with BICS will allow MNOs to affordably expand their coverage and connect more people, saving lives and accelerating economic development for those living in the remotest parts of the world.”
BICS and Lynk aim to launch the joint service later this year.
In recent weeks, direct-to-consumer satellite services appear to have surged into the collective zeitgeist of the telecoms community, largely as a result of a major announcement made by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and US giant T-Mobile. The deal will see T-Mobile use SpaceX’s Starlink constellation to help plug gaps in its terrestrial coverage across the US.
However, it should be noted that Starlink’s direct-to-device technical capabilities will be limited, at least in the short term, with the service only supporting text messaging, including SMS, MMS, and participating messaging apps. Further capabilities, like voice, are expected to be developed in the future.
Clearly, direct-to-device satellite consumers is growing increasingly feasible and could soon represent a non-trivial portion of an MNO’s service offerings. Matching the practical capabilities of a terrestrial network, however, will be much harder to achieve.
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