Smartphones look at satellites –

Space Internet directly on your smartphone. This is the new trend among digital giants including Huawei, Apple or Elon Musk. Ads are linked to allow communication via satellites.

In a smartphone market beset by inflation, supply problems and the need for significant innovation, major brands and telecom operators are eyeing the constellation nanosatellites in orbit around the Earth at less than 2000 km.

At the end of August, Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink) presented his alliance with the operator mobile tee and its 80 million subscribers in the United States. Starting next year, your company Starlink will provide an internet connection across the US, thanks to its 2,000 mini-satellites.

The other two US telecommunications giants also signed strategic agreements. verizon with satellites from Amazon and AT&T with OneWeb. The race starts with a promise: customers will be able to send messages even if there is no 4G or 5G terrestrial. No more white areas with no connection.

The “Satellite” market

Although satellite phone technology is old, it is still in its infancy for the general public. Among the forerunners, start-up Lynk managed to 2020 send an SMS directly from a satellite to a regular phone. The way is open.

Apple Satellite Messaging System [Apple]Smartphone makers are also betting on satellites. The latest iPhone 14s can send text messages to the United States thanks to space. Initially, Apple is offering this service for free for two years.

This is just an emergency message. The technology “combines bespoke components tightly integrated with software to allow the antennas to connect directly to a satellite to send a message to emergency services when cellular or Wi-Fi coverage is absent,” Apple’s statement said.

Chinese manufacturers are not left out. The new Mate 50 is also capable of communicating with satellites and sending alert messages. Huawei signed an agreement with Beidou, the Chinese GPS system.

Network everywhere

But we are still far from the efficiency of 5G terrestrial antennas. It takes, for example, at least 1 minute to send a short satellite message with the iPhone 14. “The satellite emergency call feature is designed for outdoor use with a clear view of the sky,” Apple’s statement said. Trees and houses can break the link.

At the moment, it is mainly about being able to send an emergency message, in text only, when you are in difficulty on the mountain or at sea, but the speed will gradually increase. Starlink is already announcing for next year a speed of up to 4 megabytes per second in one area.

The service “will not have the kind of bandwidth that a Starlink terminal would have, but it will allow for texting, photos, and if there aren’t a lot of people in the mobile arena, you might even have some video,” says Elon. Musk.

Always more satellites

The marketing discourse is well established. By enabling these emergency calls, cell phones will save lives. But it’s also a big deal. The meeting between two worlds.

On the one hand, smartphone vendors struggling to find innovations to sell phones and, on the other, satellite operators who must quickly monetize the millions invested in their nanosatellite constellations.

Apple has just financed the launch of 17 satellites by Globalstar, its new partner, for 300 million francs. In return, they will be able to use 85% of the bandwidth. Meanwhile, new satellite launches are going well.

Starlink already runs 2,000 satellites. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos recently announced plans to launch around 3,200 satellites. China wants 13,000 satellites for its Guowang constellation. Finally, the European Union must have its own network of 250 satellites by 2024.

Pascal Wassmer

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