bullitt woman on phone

MediaTek Inc. chip shares satellite messaging service for phones

The Bullitt Group has partnered with chip company MediaTek, to launch what it calls “the world’s first smartphone to include two-way satellite messaging technology” — although this is becoming a very competitive market.

The phone and satellite service will be commercially available in the first quarter of 2023, Pollitt says, with 12 months of free satellite SOS messages.

That means it’s competing with T-Mobile US, which is controlled by Deutsche Telekom, and SpaceX subsidiary Starlink, which in August announced a plan to send messages from space.

It was just days after Nokia announced itself as a cellular technology partner for wholesale satellite operator AST SpaceMobile, which is working with Globe Telecom, Vodafone and others, to bring satellite services to standard mobile phones.

Also in July, Ericsson said it was working with Qualcomm and Thales to develop mobile satellite services.

The latest entrant, Bullitt, said it and MediaTek have worked together over the past 18 months to enable the addition of direct satellite connectivity in the next generation of Bullitt-designed 5G smartphones.

Bullitt specializes in the manufacture of rugged phones under the Caterpillar and Motorola brands.

Bullitt co-founder Richard Wharton said, “Over 13 years, we’ve developed a deep understanding of our customers who, due to the nature of their lifestyle or job, often find themselves in the great outdoors and oftentimes on the fringes of cellular coverage.”

UK-based Bullitt said it was the first to use MediaTek’s non-terrestrial network (NTN) 3GPP chipset. The project uses proprietary software and service components to provide an over-the-air satellite over-the-air (OTT) service.

At Taiwan-based MediaTek, corporate vice president JC Hsu said, “The 3GPP NTN effort calls for allowing device manufacturers to access satellite connectivity. We are very proud to have created the two-way satellite messaging technology used in this first commercially available phone and to be a pioneer in Creating the ecosystem based on the 3GPP NTN standards for satellite communication.”

“We’ve known for a long time that the answer was satellite,” said Wharton, “but the invisible, seamless integration into a smartphone creates enormous technical challenges.” “Americans alone lose more than 22 billion hours of cellular coverage annually,” he added.