Cygnus spacecraft (Source: NASA/Northrop Grumman)

“Cell tower in the sky” UbiquitiLink is now Lynk, hiring

Virginia-based UbiquitiLink is now Lynk. The “cell tower in the sky” company is hiring engineers, business development, and product managers, with a total of 8 open positions listed on the company website as of September 18, 2019.

The company didn’t make a formal announcement of the name change, but it clearly needed to simply to something less complex than “UbiquitiLink.” Lynk has raised a total of $12 million to date in a pair of seed rounds, with recent participants including Revolution and Blazar Ventures.

Lynk is in the process of conducting its second orbital demonstration, using a Northrup Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft as a host for an instrument package bolted to its hatch to test the ability to connect with unmodified 2G and 4G cellular devices from orbit. A test with a similar configuration this spring demonstrated the ability for 2G connectivity while a third demonstration is expected to take place in early 2020.

The “special sauce” for Lynk’s approach is for the satellite emulate a cell tower – similar in principle to how an IMSI device works, except compensating for additional latencies in communicating between a device on the ground and a satellite several hundred miles above the surface. Normal maximum communications ranges between a cellular device and a terrestrial tower is around 20 miles, so Lynk’s emulation needs to account for 10 times the distance.

Initially, Lynk will work with carriers as an extension of traditional SMS text messaging services, providing a relay and store-and-forward capability for cell phone users outside of terrestrial wireless coverage. As the system grows and more satellites come online it should be possible to support both real-time voice and data, abet not at the broadband speeds and number of users for terrestrial networks.

CEO and founder Charles Miller says the company has a lot of “big money on the sidelines” ready to go. If Lynk can successfully demonstrate its system works through the on-orbit demonstrations, funding will be available to build between 24 to 32 satellites for deployment in 2020, followed by additional builds toward a couple of thousand satellites in total. Unlike other LEO communication schemes, Lynk can use SMS text relay as a revenue bootstrap mechanism, adding more satellites and new capabilities as revenues grow.

With 5 billion cell phones deployed around the world, Lynk’s primary customers are mobile network operators around the globe. The company has commitments with 32 trial customers spread across the globe.

Hints on how far along Lynk is in gearing up can be found on the company’s careers page. It is currently looking for engineers in software defined radio (SDR), spacecraft flight software, telecommunications software, and a couple of hardware engineers. There’s also a director of business development and an “Everywhere Everyone Emergency Services” product manager openings.

 

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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