Satellite technology is expensive. SpaceX’s Starlink has lowered prices and significantly increased speed, leading a wave of interest and adoption in satellite Wi-Fi.
But satellite messaging and video calling remain expensive, with basic satellite messaging plans typically getting you a small number of messages for a large subscription — and that doesn’t include the one-time fee for purchasing a full device.
At CES 2023, Bullitt Group unveiled its new two-way satellite messaging service, which will reduce the cost of satellite messaging and make it easier to use.
So what is the Bullitt Satellite Connect service and how does it work?
What is the Bullitt Satellite Connect service?
In short, Bullitt Satellite Connect is a new two-way satellite messaging service that will be launched using one of Motorola’s Defy rugged smartphones (and possibly CAT rugged smartphones, with which the Bullitt Group has partnered). But while most satellite messaging services use the Iridium satellite network, Bullitt Satellite Connect will use Skylo to avoid being tied to the Iridium network. The partnership with Skylo allows Bullitt Satellite Connect to use its partners’ satellite constellations, including Inmarsat, which will provide global coverage.
Additionally, Bullitt’s devices will use a MediaTek chip instead of the popular Qualcomm Snapdragon chip, allowing the company to offer the world’s first 3GPP device-to-device connectivity. In fact, the Bullitt Group is in the process of creating a satellite messaging service that everyone can use, in particular thanks to the delivery of a device that you can use outside of satellite messaging (i.e. your regular smartphone) and make it cheaper to access.
Speaking to MakeUseOf at CES 2023, Richard Wharton, co-founder of the Bullitt Group, said the overall goal is to “democratize satellite messaging” and the only way to do that is to lower the price and make the services easier to use.
And on that second point, a key part of Bullitt Satellite Connect is the Bullitt Satellite Messenger app, a free app that anyone can download for Android and iOS. The key thing here is that while the app sends satellite messages from a satellite-enabled device, it can also send and receive regular messages using cellular data or Wi-Fi.
But when you’re in a situation where you don’t have Wi-Fi and you’re out of cellular range, the app switches to sending a message using the host device’s satellite antenna.
Please note that downloading Bullitt Satellite Messenger does not automatically and magically turn your phone into a satellite messaging device.
However, if you send a satellite message to a number without satellite connectivity, they will still receive the message with a link to download the app so they can read and reply to it.
Built-in SOS mode and message packs
As you’d expect from a rugged smartphone with built-in satellite messaging, one of the main uses is for SOS messaging. Bullitt’s SOS Emergency Response Plan is available free of charge for 12 months, after which it switches to a paid model. On both plans, SOS messages are unlimited and connect you to the nearest emergency responders via satellite messaging.
As mentioned above, you can still send SOS messages to devices without a satellite connection, which is important in critical situations.
Other Bullitt Group messaging plans also aim to reduce the cost of satellite messaging:
- 30 posts per month, 4.99
- 125 messages per month, 9.99
- 400 messages per month, 29.99
There’s also a one-year subscription for $60 that lets you receive 400 messages over a 12-month period.
Will Bullitt Satellite Connect beat Iridium networking devices?
The biggest battle facing the Bullitt Group and its new satellite messaging system is competition from devices using the Iridium network. Iridium is widely considered the best option for emergency SOS messaging due to its global coverage.
Over time, Bullitt Group will expand its satellite messaging offering to include voice data, which will be an added bonus to its growing satellite messaging service and will certainly give it an edge over options like the popular Garmin inReach Mini 2.
The Bullitt Group confirmed to MakeUseOf that its service will fully launch in North America and Europe in the first quarter of 2023, with other regions around the world following throughout the year.