Bullitt Group and MediaTek have entered in a partnership to launch a satellite-to-mobile messaging smartphone. It is coming in the first quarter of 2023. According to the British smartphone manufacturer, the satellite service on this smartphone isn’t like any currently available.
This stands out from what Huawei and Apple offer with their satellite connectivity features. With these two brands, the satellite is only used to contact emergencies for help when in an area without a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Somehow, Bullitt Group and MediaTek have been able to perfect this technology after 18 months of working on it together.
Unlike Apple’s SOS via Satellite, the system Bullitt describes will enable seamless messaging between a user connected to a satellite and another connected to a regular cell network. Apple’s system only lets you communicate with emergency services two ways, the location sharing is one way.
This project has been in the works for 18 months in partnership with MediaTek. Earlier this year MediaTek demonstrated its NTN modem – Non-Terrestrial Network – by testing it in lab conditions. The test simulated a connection to a satellite in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), meaning 600km/370mi altitude, which is orbiting at 27,000km/h (17,000mph).
The Bullitt-built phones will be able to get a connection and send a message over satellite in around 10 seconds. It will automatically switch to satellite connectivity when cell and Wi-Fi reception is lost.
For now details on how the messaging will work are vague, but the company stresses that it will be seamless:
“We have known for a long time that the answer was in satellite but an ‘invisible’ and seamless integration into a smartphone creates enormous technical challenges. MediaTek and Bullitt share a pioneering spirit and a history of innovation so now, nearly two years into our relationship, we jointly stand at the forefront of a new era in telecommunications and the quickest, simplest way for our carrier channel partners to offer total peace of mind to their customers,” writes Richard Wharton, co-founder at Bullitt Group.
According to Bullitt, the first phones with two-way satellite service (and the satellite service itself) will be available in the first three months of 2023. They will come with a free year of emergency messaging. There’s no word on how much it will cost afterwards or on the pricing of general communication.