New Zealand’s Spark partners Lynk for satellite-to-mobile connectivity

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The operator has signed an agreement with low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite player Lynk Global aiming to trial direct-to-device satellite mobile services by the end of the year

This week, Spark has announced a new partnership with LEO satellite operator Lynk, becoming the last of New Zealand’s mobile operators to see their connectivity take to the stars.

The partnership will see Spark trial Lynk’s direct-to-consumer mobile connectivity by the end of the year, with some of their customers able to opt-in to participate for free.

Founded in 2017, Lynk Global is one of the world’s first satellite operators to target direct-to-mobile connectivity. Since then, the company has launched three initial satellites, testing the technology successfully in 21 countries.

Lynk expects to launch a number of additional satellites by the end of this year, a move that should allow it to begin offering limited commercial services.

However, this is just a small fraction of Lynk’s overall ambition, with the company suggesting they will need around 1,000 devices in orbit to provide continuous global broadband services – something they aim to achieve by 2025. In future, this total could swell to around 5,000 to help support global demand for connectivity.

Due to Lynk’s relatively limited initial deployment, the newly announced trial with Spark will only enable text messaging at certain times of day. However, as more satellites are deployed over the next two years, availability of service will improve, and voice and data services will be introduced.

Ultimately, Spark hopes to use Lynk’s constellation to provide near-universal coverage across New Zealand, ensuring customers are connected wherever they travel.

“While satellites can’t provide 100 percent coverage – as you need a clear line of sight to the sky to get connected – it certainly adds an additional layer of resilience, particularly now, as we face increasingly severe and frequent weather events due to climate change,” said Spark’s product director Tessa Tierney. “And once there are more satellites launched and the service is available more broadly, it will allow our mobile customers to start to use their phones in more areas that aren’t reached by traditional mobile coverage.”

The move comes as part of Spark’s recently announced three-year strategy, which also includes a focus on data centre investment and new connectivity technologies, including satellites.

Spark is the last of the country’s mobile operators to strike a satellite connectivity partnership. 2degrees announced a similar deal with Lynk back in April, with trials reportedly already underway. Meanwhile, Vodafone New Zealand – recently rebranded as One New Zealand – has signed up to use SpaceX’s Starlink constellation from late 2024.

How will satellite connectivity impact the international telecoms sector? Join the discussion with the operators at this year’s Total Telecom Congress

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