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UK firm takes on Apple iPhone 14 and Elon Musk with satellite phone

A British smartphone maker hopes to steal a march on Apple and Tesla boss Elon Musk with a new satellite-connected handset, the BBC has learned. If there is no wi-fi or mobile network signal, the idea is the Bullitt phone will automatically link to one of two global satellite networks. There is speculation that Apple’s forthcoming iPhone 14 could have emergency satellite connectivity. Mr Musk is also working on a satellite phone service with T-Mobile.

The handset requires a bespoke chipset that has been developed over the last 18 months with an Asian manufacturer, he said. The battery drain would be minimised by the phone only seeking satellites in the absence of other signals, he added. So-called “not-spots”, where there is poor or no mobile coverage, exist all over the world, particularly in rural areas. And while Apple’s service is rumoured to be for emergency use only in North America, Bullitt claims its phone will automatically switch to satellite in the absence of any other signal worldwide.

Satellite phones have traditionally been expensive with limited functionality, and satellite reception can also be disrupted by weather conditions. “Satellite remains the next and last frontier in connectivity,” said Paolo Pescatore, tech analyst at PP Foresight. “It is encouraging to see providers starting to get serious about using satellite for the last mile. Ultimately reliable and robust connectivity is still highly sought-after among all users.”

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