2degrees launches customer trials of ‘cell towers in space’ service in Nelson region

2degrees has made satellite to mobile technology available to a small group of staff and customers in the Nelson region this week to trial.

The telco has partnered with US satellite company Lynk to enable Kiwis to use their standard mobile phones to connect to ‘cell towers in space’ and get connectivity in remote areas of the country.

2degrees CEO Mark Callander said the trial group includes staff and 2degrees customers – and will let people use the service in real world conditions.

Callander said the service is limited to times when Lynk satellites are passing overhead, and as more satellites are launched, the availability of service will become more frequent.

2degrees started working with Lynk in May this year, and was able to integrate the service into the 2degrees network, sending texts in May, and making a voice call in July.

Callander said 2degrees and Lynk have completed the necessary “network integration to make the service work in NZ.

“We know people are really keen to get their hands on this – but the number of satellites in the sky means the service is only available for minutes at a time, and we want this to be longer and have conducted more testing in the wild before we release it widely.

“We’ve always said we’ll keep customers across progress on this technology – which is cutting edge and really exciting – but in its infancy. We now have the next generation of connectivity in the hands of a select group of customers, and they should be able to send and receive messages when out of terrestrial cell coverage.

“Currently, the availability of the service is very limited, which is why we only have a small group of customers in one region currently using it. We had hoped to be further along the path, and have this in more people’s hands, but will wait until more satellites are in the sky and the technology develops, so that connectivity is available more often.

“We want to be clear with customers that we are at the cutting edge here. The service is currently only available in the Nelson region and will only be accessible for small windows of time while a satellite is passing overhead. But, that said, despite the limitations, it’s seriously cool. It’s rocket science – we are sending messages via a cell tower flying at around 27,000kph almost 500km above the earth.”

2degrees customers with an iPhone 14 or 15s can use Apple’s Emergency SOS service. The service allows users to text emergency services when they are off the grid with no mobile and Wi-Fi coverage.

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