The Bullitt Group has joined with chipmaker MediaTek to introduce what it calls "the world's first smartphone to feature two-way satellite messaging capabilities." Though this market is becoming very competitive, Bullitt says that the phone and satellite service will go on the market in the first quarter of 2023, along with a year of free satellite SOS messaging.
This means Bullitt is competing with T-Mobile US and SpaceX's Starlink for messaging from space. Earlier, Nokia and AST SpaceMobile said they had signed a five-year 5G deal to build a space-based cellular broadband network accessible directly by standard mobile phones. AST SpaceMobile is a wholesale satellite operator working with Globe Telecom, Vodafone, and others to deliver satellite services to standard mobile phones.
Bullitt is the First to Use MediaTek's 3GPP NTN Chipset
The most recent entrant, Bullitt, stated that it and MediaTek had worked over the last 18 months to enable the addition of direct-to-satellite communication in its next-generation Bullitt 5G smartphones. Bullitt also said it is the first to use MediaTek's 3GPP NTN (Non-Terrestrial Network) chipset.
Intelligent Device Software
Bullitt stated that the device switches to the satellite link only when no cellular or Wi-Fi connection is available. This service also integrates users' contacts in such a way as to provide a seamless experience when using the satellite link to communicate with a phone on a cellular network. The time to initially connect to the satellite and send a message is around 10 seconds.
Richard Wharton, a co-founder of Bullitt, said: "Over 13 years, we have developed a deep understanding of our clients who, by nature of their lifestyle or employment, frequently find themselves in remote locations outside of cellular coverage."
Wharton added: "Americans alone lose cell coverage for over 22 billion hours annually. 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."
JC Hsu, corporate VP at MediaTek, Taiwan, stated that the 3GPP NTN project supports allowing device manufacturers access to satellite connectivity. We are extremely proud of having developed the two-way satellite messaging technology utilised in this first commercially accessible phone and for being the pioneers in developing the ecosystem for satellite communication based on 3GPP NTN standards.