Following the volcanic eruption that destroyed Tonga’s communications infrastructure, Lynk Global signed contracts with mobile network providers servicing Pacific and the Caribbean Island nations on February 23.
The company is situated in Falls Church, Virginia. Lynk reported commercial arrangements with mobile network operators in seven island nations, particularly Telikom PNG in Papua New Guinea as well as bmobile in the Solomon Islands.
In a statement, Charles Miller, who works as the Lynk Chief Executive Officer said, “We continue to recruit carriers as launch partners and foresee more in the coming months. The recent disaster in Tonga demonstrates how critical connectivity is for people’s health and safety in the event of a crisis.”
While volcanoes and tsunamis are particularly dangerous for communications, people all around the world are affected by “hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, tornadoes, and blizzards,” according to Miller.
Later this year, Lynk hopes to launch its commercial “cell-towers-in-space” service. The startup revealed in early February that its fifth satellite has made connections with hundreds of unmodified tablets, smartphones, IoT devices, and cars.
Lynk’s mission, according to Miller, is to ensure that “everyone, anywhere in the world can get mobile connectivity, regardless of what occurs.”
For mobile connectivity operators, islands provide unique obstacles, including distant sites where cell tower installation is costly, exposure to the severe maritime environment, and inhabitants dispersed across broad geographic areas.
The nine million people of Papua New Guinea, for example, live on a landmass of about 453,000 square kilometers. More than 80% of them rely on terrestrial cell infrastructure for minimal or no mobile connection. According to the Lynk news release, this is true for over 75 percent of Solomon Island’s population.
In a statement, Telikom PNG acting CEO Amos Tepi said, “Mobile phone coverage across sea and land continues to be a critical concern for Papua New Guinea as well as our neighbor the Solomon Islands.” Tepi said the Papua New Guinea government is reviewing “the infrastructure required to keep our people, particularly our fisherman, safe and connected. The ability to override mobile base stations is becoming increasingly important to our societies, particularly in remote areas.”
Lynk wants to provide an emergency alert service in addition to offering continuous connectivity for mobile devices. For example, if a tsunami is expected, Lynk can transmit notifications to mobile phones to alert people to seek higher ground, according to Miller, who spoke at the last SmallSat Symposium.