Recently, Bullitt unveiled two new devices to provide its satellite-to-mobile messaging service — the Motorola Defy 2 rugged Android smartphone and the Motorola Defy satellite link, a Bluetooth device that provides satellite connectivity to any smartphone.
The Motorola Defy 2 smartphone is designed for outdoor adventurers. It can survive being dropped and handle harsh environmental conditions. It features an extra-large battery but a slim design.
The Motorola Defy satellite link — a dongle device — is particularly interesting because it allows any Android or iOS smart phone to connect to satellite via Bluetooth.
Richard Wharton, co-founder of the Bullitt Group, said there are large swaths of the U.S. and other parts of the world that don’t have cellular coverage. He said people could put the dongle on their key fob or in their car glove box to connect to satellite in uncovered areas.
The dongle also functions as an SOS messenger and a GPS tracker. This is an area where Bullitt will compete with Garmin for emergency GPS tracking services.
The Motorola devices with the Bullitt Satellite Messenger app will first try to connect via Wi-Fi or cellular as normal, and if neither are found to be available, they will connect via satellite.
The two new devices with Bullitt’s software join the first device that Bullitt offered – the CAT S75 smartphone.
The Bullitt Group is approaching the satellite-to-mobile challenge from the device perspective. Bullitt licenses its Satellite Messenger software on various original equipment manufacturer (OEM) devices.
While other players in the satellite-to-mobile ecosystem are focused on low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations, Bullitt is working with existing geosynchronous (GEO) constellations to provide a two-way messaging service, immediately. The Motorola devices will connect to the GEO satellites owned by Echostar and Inmarsat.
Wharton said the two-way messaging service is being rolled out in large geographic regions throughout 2023. “We’ll have all of Europe at the end of March; North America and Latin America in Q2. By the end of the year, hopefully most of the world with the exceptions of China, Russia and other markets where you can’t put satellite communications.”
Wharton said there’s no difference in the text-messaging experience for the user whether the service uses an LEO constellation or a GEO constellation. GEO might even be a little better right now because people don’t have to wave their device around to connect via line of sight with an LEO satellite.
In the future though, Bullitt will want to use 5G, and that will require LEO.
“For us to deliver better data and voice that’s going to require 5G NR with Release 18, likely in the next two to three years,” he said. “To deliver those data speeds, we’re going to need an LEO constellation to do it.” It’s already collaborating with Echostar on that.
Bullitt uses Skylo for its core network technology. Skylo manages the connections to the devices over existing licensed GEO satellite constellations.
In November 2022, Bullitt said it was using MediaTek’s 3GPP Non-Terrestrial Network chipset.
“We successfully worked with Bullitt, integrating our 3GPP NTN technology and chipset into the world’s first commercially available devices with two-way satellite messaging,” stated J.C. Hsu, general manager of MediaTek’s wireless communications business unit.
Need for satellite-to-mobile
Wharton said there is a clear need for satellite to fill in gaps in cellular coverage. He said 30% of the U.S. landmass is not covered, and 70% of Canada’s landmass is not covered. “It’s difficult to build out more cell towers. There is absolutely a real need for cellular in-fill. The only viable way of doing that is through satellite,” he said.
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