HomeBBC NEWSTechUK firm takes on Apple iPhone 14 and Elon Musk with satellite...

    UK firm takes on Apple iPhone 14 and Elon Musk with satellite phone


    A British smartphone maker is hoping to get a jump on Apple and Tesla boss Elon Musk with a new satellite-connected phone, the BBC has learned.

    If there is no Wi-Fi or mobile network signal, the Bullitt phone will automatically link to one of two global satellite networks.

    There is speculation that Apple’s upcoming iPhone 14 may have an emergency satellite connection feature.

    Mr. Musk is also working with T-Mobile on a satellite phone service.

    However, last month he said that “regulatory approvals” for satellite launches were holding up plans, adding that the service was unlikely to launch before the end of 2023.

    Bullitt’s service, due to launch in February 2023, will initially allow users to send and receive text messages only.

    Recipients will receive messages in the form of text messages, which they can reply to if they have downloaded Bullitt’s app. They can use it for free – but owners of Bullitt phones will have to pay a monthly subscription fee for the service.

    The Reading-based company declined to say how much it would cost, but said it would be offered on a tiered basis, comparable to existing mobile tariffs, and paid on top of a standard network contract. It has not yet released images of the device.

    While Apple’s service is rumored to be used only in North America for emergency use, Bullitt claims its phones will automatically switch to satellite in the absence of any other signal worldwide.

    “What we have is a smartphone that launches in February that will be capable of two-way messaging via satellite with global coverage,” said Bullitt co-founder Richard Wharton.

    “I hope we’ve succeeded in taking a step forward.”

    Image caption,An example of the messaging app- the red dot indicates that it was sent via satellite

    Musk said that phones currently using his platform may have to wait up to 30 minutes to connect to a satellite. However, Mr. Walden said he believes that because of the deal with two global satellite networks – which he declined to name – the wait will be no more than a few seconds.

    He said the phone requires a custom chipset developed in collaboration with an Asian manufacturer over the past 18 months. He added that the phone minimizes battery consumption by only looking for satellites in the absence of other signals.

    So-called “non-hotspots,” where mobile coverage is poor or non-existent, are found around the world, especially in rural areas.

    “We want to work with [network operators] because there are challenges in providing cellular coverage in 100 percent of the geography of a country, so we’re providing infill where there are coverage black spots,” Mr. Wharton said.

    Traditionally, satellite phones have been expensive, have limited functionality and satellite reception can be disrupted by weather conditions.

    “Satellite is still the next and last frontier for connectivity,” said Paolo Pescatore, technology analyst at PP Foresight.

    “It is encouraging that providers are starting to seriously consider using satellites in the last mile. Ultimately, reliable and robust connectivity remains highly sought after by all users.”

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