Smartphones look at satellites –

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

In a smartphone market plagued by inflation, supply issues and a lack of breakthrough innovations, big brands and telecom operators are eyeing the constellation nanosatellites in orbit around the Earth at less than 2,000 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, his company Starlink will provide Internet connection everywhere in the US, thanks to its 2,000 mini-satellites.

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

The market for “satellite phones”

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

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

This is an emergency message only. The technology “combines custom 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 message via satellite with the iPhone 14. “The Satellite Emergency Call feature is designed for use outdoors with a clear view of the sky,” said Apple’s statement . Trees and houses can break the link.

For now, it’s mainly about being able to send an emergency message, just in text, when you’re in difficulty in the mountains or at sea, but the speed will gradually increase. Starlink already announces for the next year a speed of up to 4 megabytes per second in an area.

The service “won’t have the kind of bandwidth that a Starlink terminal would, but it will allow for text messages, photos and, if there aren’t many people in the mobile area, you can even have some video,” says Elon Almíscar.

always more satellites

Marketing discourse is well established. By enabling these emergency calls, cell phones will save lives. But it’s also big business. The encounter between two worlds.

On the one hand, smartphone vendors struggling to find innovations to sell phones and, on the other hand, satellite operators that 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 rotates 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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