Cellular Service From Outer Space for 4G Phones?
Cell reception is accessible anywhere in the world. However, almost 2 billion people all over the globe have slow cell reception or none at all.
Usually, its people that live in rural areas where it is hard and costly to build a network of cell towers. Although satellite phones are accessible nowadays, their lumpy structure and costly price make it difficult for everyday use.
Companies are working on improving this problem by constructing a cell network in space.
It will provide 4G phone service coming from the satellites that will connect to regular cell phones and deliver high-bandwidth mobile data anywhere on earth.
It could be a solution for the slow-paced cell reception in hard-to-reach areas.
It will be hard at first because cell phones are not equipped to transmit data thru satellites speeding along at 17,000mph, 300 miles above the ground.
The Cellphone’s software and hardware is the reason why cell phones can connect to cell towers that are a few miles away. Antennas are a must when we want our cell phones to connect from space because it is susceptible enough to collect poor signals and adequately keen to reciprocate signal that can be detected by a cell receiver.
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CEO and co-founder of a Virginia-based satellite communications company, Lynk, Charles Miller said, “The hard part is the uplink from the phone.
You can’t change the phone to add more power. It needs to work out of pocket.” For the next two years, they thought about designing shoebox-sized satellites that will work as orbiting cell towers which will operate on a low frequency, unlike other communication satellites.
They will utilize a revised design of a terrestrial cell tower that will lessen the delay of sending the signal to space and vice versa. Lynk came up with an antenna that is strong enough and could easily detect a signal in order to communicate with cell phones on earth although Miller was discreet with the details of the technology.
Lynk launched its satellite technology on a Cygnus cargo capsule along with the payload containing Lynk’s core technology in early 2019.
They exhibited its capability to communicate with mobile devices on earth via a 2G network. Lynk has launched two other satellite test beds to the space station and is scheduled to launch later this month. The Cygnus cargo is currently docked at the International Space Station.
On the year 2020, Lynk could have its working satellite cellular network, yet it still won’t be available for everyone’s use.
They might be able to provide a connection for a limited amount of time. While satellites are added, the range will enhance until the ordeal of tethering to an orbital cell tower will be unlike to connecting to the ones here on earth. In Miller’s opinion, an insufficient connection is better than none at all.
AST & Science is establishing its latest and ambiguous type of satellite constellation that’s a take on supposed “fractionated satellites” that will diverge the ability of one large satellite amid some smaller ones.
The Texas-based satellite communications company decided to accompany Lynk in space last 2019 in low-Earth orbit to try out their software.
No other fractioned satellite had ever flown in orbit before, aside from Darpa which allocated six years and more than 200 million dollars in inventing a fractioned satellite before discarding the idea because of limited finances last 2013.
Dozens of small, pizza box-sized satellites will compose the AST’s system as the hover in formation while they obtain cell signals. Abel Avellan, CEO and founder of AST, said that the system isn’t genuinely fractionated due to small satellites having the same capacity respectively than dividing the feature of a larger satellite.
A large control satellite will manage its formation as it will handle the network traffic and satellite movement. According to Avellan, the first satellites in AST’s system to launch will be manually attached whilst later versions will relay with each other via Wi-Fi or another wireless protocol.
Since the satellites are spread out on space, each one is a receiver and operating in sync with other satellites which will produce a huge antenna.
Avellan stated, “In essence, we are building a very, very large satellite with a lot of power that can connect directly to a handset.
Our system is a replica of the terrestrial network in space.” AST’s daring vision has gained the attention of a few high-profile financers.
Lynk announces last Tuesday that they have raised $128 million in funding in launching the network.
One of its investors is the world’s largest mobile provider outside of China, Vodafone, believes that Lynk’s technology is the solution to allowing cellular data available throughout the whole world.
Vodafone’s head of group research and development, Luke Ibbetson, states “We don’t see anything else out there that is going to allow us to connect the next couple of billion people in the world that we aspire to with this platform,”
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Few companies have expressed their interest in developing their satellite constellation, one of those companies is, Apple, as Bloomberg hinted last year that they have a secret team operating on satellite technology that the iPhone maker could use to relay internet services directly to devices, bypassing wireless networks.”
This concept is no stranger in the tech industry. TerreStar pursued in establishing a 4G satellite network that would link with devices.
The device, named Centrus, a cross between a satellite phone and a regular cellphone has a similar physical appearance with Blackberry.
It was made to be able to go back and forth between satellite and terrestrial cell networks. Before they were able to initiate their first satellite, TerreStar filed for bankruptcy last 2010.
Avellan acknowledges reusable rockets as well as the accessible versions of key technologies like software-defined radios which contributes to the possibility of space-based cell networks.
Executives of AST and Lynk aims for cell coverage be in everyone’s reach especially for people with no access to emergency communications, weather reports, banking, and other benefits offered by mobile devices specifically in countries like India, Indonesia and equatorial Africa.
Lynk and AST have already joined a partnership with telecommunication companies that are assisting them in merging with their networks to test the space-based cell service.
As soon as the satellite networks are set, both companies will market their service to telecommunication companies.
They will include the satellite service into existing phone plans or maybe make these services available for people who live in locations with no cell service.
Will anyone be willing to pay for space-based satellite service despite its technological problems? “The plans are ambitious, but they’re credible,” says Ibbetson. “We’re a few years off from actually launching service, but the signs are all extremely positive.”
With no real user basis, it may be hard at first to set up resources to have enough satellites for global, never-ending service.
Both Lynk and AST must provide valid proof to the public that their service is a win-win for everyone.
The success of their technology is in the hands of the people. Will they have a future in the telecommunications industry? Or none at all?