What’s up with… Lynk Global, Gamma, 6G

TelecomTV Staff
By TelecomTV Staff

Feb 6, 2024

  • LEO hopeful Lynk Global heads for the Nasdaq
  • Gamma Telecom acquires Coolwave
  • China Mobile and Juniper Research offer 6G updates

In today’s industry news roundup: Satellite-to-smartphone network operator Lynk Global has finalised its merger with a special purpose acquisition company; the UK’s Gamma Telecom spreads its wings with strategic acquisition; China Mobile launches 6G-enabled satellite while Juniper Research predicts 6G service uptake; and much more! 

Lynk Global, the low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite firm that aims to enable direct-to-smartphone communications from its constellation of “cell towers in space”, has finalised its deal to become a listed company on the Nasdaq exchange by merging with Slam, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), in a “business combination” that values Lynk Global at $800m. But before it becomes a publicly traded company it plans to raise additional capital. “Proceeds from the anticipated financing will be used to produce more satellites, secure launches, and support satellite design and operations. This is expected to include the continued development, manufacturing and launch of a constellation of low-earth orbit satellites. The constellation will complement the three commercially licensed Lynk satellites that are currently in orbit and is intended to enable global communications using radiofrequency spectrum licensed to mobile network operators without hardware or software modification to existing standard cellphone technologies. Through our proposed business combination with Slam, we believe Lynk will be well positioned to raise capital through several avenues. The capital we intend to raise will accelerate our growth as we execute our plan to launch many more ‘cell-towers-in-space’,” the company noted. Charles Miller, CEO of Lynk, stated: “With technology proven on all seven continents, and 36 full commercial contracts with partners that currently provide coverage to hundreds of millions of subscribers in approximately 50 countries, Lynk has the potential to provide continuous wireless connectivity to billions of people around the world, using the unmodified phones they use today.” Alex Rodriguez, CEO of Slam, noted: “Lynk seeks to connect the world by extending cell coverage everywhere. We are thrilled to announce this business combination agreement, which positions the combined company to capitalise on the massive $1tn mobile wireless market as Lynk solves a core problem for the more than five billion cell phone users around the globe today. The combined company is set to deliver Lynk’s innovative, patented technology to areas that need it most and connect the more than two billion unconnected people worldwide.” Will investors buy that pitch? Let’s see… 

Gamma Communications, which provides communications services to unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS), communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) and contact centre-as-a-service (CCaaS) providers, has acquired Coolwave Communications for an undisclosed sum. Coolwave is “a prominent international SMS and voice services provider. This acquisition highlights Gamma’s efforts to bolster its global presence and enhance its voice services portfolio.” Gamma says this acquisition will enhance its delivery of voice services in more than 100 countries. “Additionally, this helps accelerate the execution of Gamma’s overall strategy by serving the communication needs of global organisations both large and small, by providing a highly scalable technical footprint. This will underpin the SIP, Microsoft Direct Routing and Operator Connect propositions as Gamma expands internationally,” the company added in this announcement. Mike Mills, director of service providers at Gamma, stated: “The acquisition of Coolwave aligns perfectly with our strategy to expand our global footprint and provide world-class voice and SMS services to customers. This move enhances our competitive position and empowers us to offer even more innovative solutions.”

China Mobile has launched the world’s first 6G test satellite, according to local newspaper China Daily. The operator’s low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite, which employs 6G design architecture, was launched alongside another satellite housing China Mobile’s 5G technology. The 6G test spacecraft reportedly hosts a distributed autonomous architecture for 6G, co-developed by China Mobile and the Innovation Academy for Microsatellites of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IAMCAS). It also uses Chinese software and hardware and supports flexible deployment of core network functions and automated management. The report, citing China Mobile, added that the two test satellites can deliver more enhanced low latency and higher data transfer rates, as they orbit at a height of around 500km compared with high-orbit satellites travelling at 36,000km. China Mobile is expected to conduct further trials based on the 6G satellite to speed up the development of the industry.

There will be 290 million 6G connections globally by 2030, according to a new prediction from Juniper Research. The forecast bases its estimate on a projected 6G launch date of 2029, so that’s a quick ramp-up from a base of zero. The Juniper Research team added the necessary but obvious caveat that achieving such a figure will depend on operators being able to solve a plethora of 6G technological problems, not the least of which is to completely conquer the challenge of chronic network interference that is the inevitable corollary of the exploitation of high-frequency spectrum. In its Global 6G Development 2024-2032 paper, Juniper Research identifies reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RIS) technology as being key to the successful introduction of 6G, which is touted as providing data throughput speeds 100 times faster than 5G. Utter reliability will be the be-all and end-all of functional commercial 6G, and RIS-based transmission provides improved spectral efficiency in wireless networks by re-configuring the propagation environment of electromagnetic waves. This is managed via a large number of small, low-cost and passive elements on reconfigurable intelligent surfaces that reflect only the incident signal with an adjustable reflection amplitude (vertical) shift and phase (horizontal) shift without the need for a dedicated energy source for radio frequency processing, decoding or encoding. RIS mitigates the impact of interference from big obstacles in transmission paths and network services, such as buildings, by reflecting and refracting 6G signals, thus permitting data streams and packets to move around physical impediments or barriers. It also reduces energy consumption. Thus, as the Juniper Research report emphasises, RIS must be the priority focus of research and development now because standards for 6G will be much closer to an agreed final definition by 2025. It adds that as 6G will be a technology of global application across the world’s most densely populated cities and environments, it will be necessary for service providers to apply AI technology constantly to monitor and adjust RIS configuration in real-time to ensure robust connectivity. As the author of the report, Alex Webb, noted, “Initial 6G coverage will occur in the most densely populated geographical areas to serve as many users as possible. Therefore, RIS technology will be key to providing a valuable 6G service to both consumer and enterprise customers in the first few years of network operation.”

UK fixed broadband network operator TalkTalk has acquired Shell Energy’s UK broadband customer base from Octopus Energy for an undisclosed sum. A short TalkTalk statement confirmed the deal following media reports and noted that “Shell Energy Broadband has been a longstanding wholesale customer of TalkTalk, with services offered through the company’s unique national network platform, and that relationship will now continue.” The current statement, though, does not include details shared earlier in the day by TalkTalk that “the deal will see approximately 480,000 customers benefit from TalkTalk’s commitment to offer simple, affordable, reliable and fair connectivity.” Quite why that customer number has been removed is a mystery at present. TalkTalk is currently doing the splits, creating three separate businesses – see this announcement from late last year. 

Telenor has bragged about opening what it claims is “the world’s southernmost commercial base station in Antarctica”. Describing the feat as a “ground-breaking venture”, the Norwegian telco group noted that the base station was put into operation this month from the world’s northernmost town of Ny Ålesund, to deliver “essential mobile coverage” to the Norwegian Polar Institute’s research station, Troll. It has partnered with Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT), which is responsible for the communication services from the Troll station. This move, according to Telenor, helps the Norwegian Polar Institute extend its reach as a hub for scientific exploration and environmental research, as well as safety of researchers working in the area. Learn more.

The UK government has announced a “bold and ambitious” plan to invest “a total” of £45m in the nation’s quantum technology sector, hugely hyping what is, in fact, a drop in a bucket compared to the ocean of cash that will needed if the Sunak administration’s goal of “transforming Britain into a quantum-enabled economy by 2033” is to be met. According to the gov.uk website, the money is part of the government’s commitment to “unlock the potential of quantum” by exploiting the technology’s power to overhaul the healthcare, energy, transport (and other) sectors by focusing on breakthroughs in brain scanners, navigation systems and quantum computing. Support for research and development into those three areas is certainly necessary, but the reality is that a sum of (on average) £15m per subject is development on a shoestring. The financial boost was announced by Andrew Griffith, the UK’s Science Minister, during a visit to Cerca Magnetics, a commercial company spun out of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Nottingham in the UK, where 50 years ago, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was invented. Cerca Magnetics was awarded £1.3 mn in funding, two-thirds of the cost of the R&D of the world’s most-advanced quantum-based brain scanner. The money for commercial development came from Innovate UK, Britain’s business-led national innovation agency and the balance of the development costs was paid by Cerca itself. Cerca’s magnetoencephalography (MEG) technology measures magnetic fields generated by current flow in assemblies of neurons in the brain and those fields are used to construct images showing moment-to-moment changes in brain activity, thus offering an extremely powerful means to measure brain function and dysfunction in neurological (such as epilepsy and dementia) or psychiatric conditions. Cerca also comes under the aegis of the government-backed National Quantum Technologies Programmes and worked on the development of MEG in partnership with QuSpin Inc, an atomic physics company in Colorado in the US. Between them, the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Technology Missions Fund and Britain’s National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC) have invested £30m via a competition to develop and deliver world-leading quantum computing hardware prototypes. Another £15m from the Quantum Catalyst Fund will be used to “accelerate” the use of quantum in government. Frantically gilding the lily with a pot of government-issue ‘One-Coat-Covers-Anything’ Obfuscating Gloss, Griffith enthused: “Over the next 10 years, quantum technologies are expected to revolutionise many aspects of life in the UK and bring enormous benefits, such as helping to grow our economy and create well-paid jobs across the country – one of the Prime Minister’s five priorities.” Ironically, on Monday, the prime minister himself was finally forced, on TV, to admit that one of his priority promises has not been met and three others have not yet succeeded. The UK’s National Quantum Strategy, which was published almost a year ago, in March 2023, committed £2.5bn to developing quantum technologies in Britain over the 10 years from 1 January 2024. A much-vaunted £45m is thin gruel compared to a nourishing bowl of proper porridge.

And now…. A roll of drums please for the latest on embattled Indian fintech company Paytm, which, as we reported earlier this week, is in the severest of straits after an audit found unresolved discrepancies in the flow of money and data between Paytm and its banking arm Paytm Payments Bank Limited (PPBL). Citing “persistent non-compliances and continued material supervisory concerns in the bank, [dating back to 2022 and] warranting further supervisory action” the nation’s central regulating bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has ordered that the company shall be barred from providing any form of banking and financial services with effect from midnight on Thursday, 29 February. Despite the possible imminent end of Paytm, its CEO, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, remained his usual grandiloquent self at the start of this week, telling staff that “there is nothing to worry about” and “many banks are helping us”. However, local reports suggest that Sharma then attended a meeting with top executives of the RBI where he managed to curtail his usual “exuberant” demeanour for long enough to make a solemn plea to have the 29 February deadline extended, not least because the company will “focus on being extremely compliant moving forward.” Apparently, the RBI bankers have not yet granted any such extension and, indeed, are said to be considering cancelling Paytm’s licence to conduct business. Reuters has reported that India’s Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), the country’s federal white-collar crime busters, are now on the Paytm case and have begun a forensic examination of the company's technology platforms to determine if the company has been in breach of foreign exchange regulations and laws. Again, according to Indian media reports, the RBI has discovered that many thousands of accounts at PPBL were created without having been put through the legislatively mandated identification verification processes. The inference must surely be that the SFIO has suspicions about possible money laundering. Further, the RBI is “increasingly concerned” about “management overlap” between the Paytm Payments Bank and Paytm itself, where the senior executives have management responsibilities for both companies. Paytm’s share price plummeted in recent days, but during Tuesday trading on India’s National Stock Exchange exhibited what may well be an impressive example of “dead cat bounce” when the stock price rose by more than 3% to 452.80 Indian rupees. It seems this was down to the rumour that Jio Financial Services had expressed interest in buying Paytm’s electronic wallet business. The rumour was quickly scotched when Jio Financial issued a statement stressing that it is not buying anything of the sort and dismissing the rumours as “speculative”. We haven’t heard the last of this saga yet.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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