Mobile space race intensifies: New devices with satellite connectivity unveiled

The messages are sent through geostationary satellites about 22,000 miles above the equator.
Loukia Papadopoulos
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The new Bullit satellite devices.


British smartphone firm Bullitt on Friday released a Bluetooth device that provides satellite connectivity to any iOS or Android smartphone and two smartphones with the capacity to send text messages via space.

This is according to a press release by the firm published on Friday.

The Bluetooth device offers users two-way messaging over satellite, as well as location sharing and SOS assistance. Meanwhile, the two new devices send messages to geostationary satellites about 22,000 miles (35405568 meters) above the equator, and then back down to an earth-based network infrastructure before reaching a user’s phone.

There is one caveat: receivers of this message will have to have Bullitt Messenger, the firm’s proprietary satellite messaging app, installed in order to reply. They will also have to wait 10 seconds to receive the message.

The new phones come in two versions: the $634.49 Caterpillar-branded Cat S75 and the $599 Motorola Defy 2.

Mobile space race intensifies: New devices with satellite connectivity unveiled
The new Bullit smartphone.

Many advantages

Both devices come with 5G connectivity, a 6.6-inch display and 5,000 milliampere-hour battery, which the company claims can last up to two full days.

However satellite connection is not always active. It is only turned on when a user falls outside the reach of Wi-Fi or mobile network signals.

Despite being in the works for decades, satellite phones have not yet entered mainstream usage because they are often clunky and impractical. Bullit’s new devices don’t have these limitations due to a satellite-enabled chip from Taiwanese semiconductor firm MediaTek.

“This is assuredly not a gimmick,” Tim Shepherd, Bullitt’s senior director of applications and product marketing, told CNBC.

“Reliable communication beyond the traditional reaches of the cellular network is a major issue for a lot of people, and satellite technology is now at the right level of maturity to address the problem.”

Mobile space race intensifies: New devices with satellite connectivity unveiled
The new Bullit Bluetooth device.

A niche market

Ben Wood, lead analyst at CCS Insight, told CNBC that Bullitt is targeting a niche market.

“The company is a trailblazer for satellite messaging but competition is snapping at its heels,” Wood told CNBC. “That said, the target market for its devices is well suited to the technology so it has a lucrative niche to target.”

Bullitt has ambitious plans to support satellite coverage in Europe and North America at launch, with Australia and New Zealand, Africa, and Latin America to follow by mid-2023.

This is not the first time the company has put its bets on emerging technology. In 2016, it introduced what it called the world’s first thermal imaging smartphone, the Cat S60.

At the time, the firm claimed the new feature would be in 50 percent of smartphones in five years, but that never happened. Will it have better luck with its satellite phones?

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