- Cell phones are on the verge of extinction as satellite smartphones are about to see the light of the day.
- It will pave the way for all weather connectivity as network issues in the current mobile phones are a let-down.
- A roadmap has been prepared by a plethora of top satellite mobile phone companies.
“Dead spots”, or out-of-network areas, for mobile phones can be a conundrum. However, it turns out that ordinary phones may soon be getting global satellite connections. Lynk Global, a little-known space-phone company, demonstrated in September 2021 that satellite smartphones are not a distant dream but a present reality. The company has been working, apparently on stealth mode, to provide connectivity via nanosatellites to regular phones. As competition hots, a new play has emerged i.e affordable satellite phone access to ordinary folks anywhere on the planet. A recent example being, the newly launched iPhone 14 coming packed with an emergency SOS signal linked to GlobalStar satellite system.
“ Can you hear me, hello?”
Gone will be the days when frequent network cuts plagued the telecom sector, as the new satellite phones promise signals everywhere. Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX, said they are in talks with Apple for Starlink connectivity. It is also rumored that Tesla would be launching the Pi Phone as a Starlink native device.
Satellite-based communications has been used for years by governments, especially for disaster response, and for limited civilian applications. The age of satellite smartphones for everyday users drawing near.
The Heroes who will Lead Us
Many top satellite mobile phone companies have fastened their seatbelts as they are ready to leap into the territory of satellite smartphones. Let’s have a cursory look at some of them.
- Iridium: Launched on November 1, 1998, Iridium enables voice, messaging, and data services anywhere on Earth through rugged hardware designed for lone workers, adventurers, international travelers, and government workers. Headed by CEO Matthew J. Desch, it has 66 satellites.
- Globalstar: Founded in 1991, it is currently headed by CEO David Kagan. On September 7, 2022, Apple announced they signed up with Globalstar for iPhone 14’s out-of-network emergency services feature, becoming Globalstar’s biggest customer. It is known for its crystal clear, “land-line quality” voice service, and higher-quality transmission path for low to mid-latitude users. It has 48 satellites.
- Starlink: Founded in 2019 and headed by Elon Musk, its mass-produced small satellites communicate “talk” to each other and with designated ground transceivers to provide internet service, via a small satellite dish and router. As of June 2022, Starlink is already providing internet access to over 500,000 subscribers. It has over 3,259 satellites.
- Kuiper Systems: Founded in 2019 and led by CEO Rajeev Badyal, the company is backed by Amazon and won the Federal Communications Commission’s go-ahead in 2020. The full constellation will provide internet to “tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet”. Amazon has announced it will “offer broadband service through partnerships with other companies”.
- OneWeb: Founded in 2012 it is headed by CEO Neil Masterson. First six satellites were launched in February 2019, the first large batch of 34 satellites was launched in February 2020, and another 34 were put into orbit in March 2020. These were followed by more launches in 2021. It has 648 satellites.
- Lynk Global: Founded in 2016, it is led by CEO Charles Miller. In 2020 they sent the first ordinary SMS directly from a satellite to a normal phone. The company is developing a satellite-to-mobile-phone constellation, with a “cell site in space” (using nanosatellites) capability aimed for underserved (rural) areas without cellular coverage. It has 6 satellites .
- Inmarsat : Founded in 1979 and led by CEO Rajeev Suri, Inmarsat is one of the most mature satellite-based mobile communication services. The British satellite telecommunications company has passed the 10,000 Fleet Xpress installation milestone, coinciding with a doubling of average data use by ships since mid-2020. The company offers global mobile telephone and data services. The service is approved for use under the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System.
The future looks bright for the age of satellite smartphones has just begun.
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