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A British company will launch a GEO-compatible smartphone early next year

Tampa, Fla. — British phone maker Bullet said on November 29 that it will launch a smartphone early next year capable of sending and receiving texts via satellites in geostationary orbit (GEO).

The company has been working with chipmaker MediaTek for 18 months to develop a hybrid smartphone, which they say can connect directly to satellite when terrestrial networks are unavailable without the need for an external antenna.

Bullitt co-founder Richard Wharton said the exact dimensions of the smartphone will be announced during the annual CES trade show in January. Space news.

Wharton said its solution is “constellation neutral” and will use satellites from multiple operators, which he declined to name.

Bullitt, which designs and manufactures rugged mobile phones under brand licenses from Motorola and specializes in heavy-duty vehicles Caterpillar, expects to launch initial satellite coverage across North America and Europe in the first quarter of 2023, “with the rest of the world to follow very shortly after.”

The smartphone will run on Google’s Android operating system and will also include the free satellite SOS emergency service, similar to the ability Apple launched on November 15th via Globalstar satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO).

Unlike Apple’s service for the latest iPhones, which only facilitates two-way texting with emergency services, Wharton said Bullitt users will be able to text back and forth with any other mobile phone over the satellite network.

He said Bullitt successfully tested this capability with a MediaTek chip in October. Further system and service testing is currently taking place in North America and Europe prior to commercial launch.

According to Pollitt, the time to initially connect to a Jio satellite and send a message will be about 10 seconds.

Under ideal conditions, Apple said Globalstar’s current bandwidth limitations mean a message sent via its satellite could take 15 seconds to send, and up to three minutes in other cases.

California startup eSAT Global is also developing a chip that enables smartphones to connect directly to GEO satellites.

The company has partnered to use unused capacity on Yahsat and Inmarsat satellites as it tries to convince smartphone makers to retrofit their chipsets to take advantage of the network.

Other companies are developing similar LEO businesses using proprietary chip technology or custom star clusters that can connect to unmodified smartphones.

With enough satellites, LEO constellations promise lower latency than far-Earth satellites in geosynchronous orbit, which is seen as an important advantage of higher bandwidth capabilities, including voice and video calls.