New Video : Your Next Smartphone Might Use Satellites vs. Cellular Networks for Messaging

This week’s Weekly Wrapup Video was inspired by a Robert X. Cringley post about a rumored secret deal between Apple and satellite operator Globalstar. From the post:

Apple will shortly enter the satellite business by acquiring GlobalStar and its 24 satellites. They will use those 24, plus 24 more satellites that Apple has already commissioned, to offer satellite service for iMessage and Apple’s Find My network just like they implied in their denial last year.

The link in Cringley’s post goes to this Space News Article about a recent infusion of cash that Globalstar is set to receive from a top secret potential customer.

The operator said Feb. 24 it picked MDA and Rocket Lab to supply a set of 17 satellites to replenish its constellation after a “potential customer” agreed to fund most of the $327 million project. The agreement includes an option for up to nine additional satellites at $11.4 million each

The potential network will only run at about 10 megabits per second per satellite so it won’t be able to transfer large items like videos or high resolution imagery, but it is enough to provide service even in the most remote locations. In fact this type of messaging is very popular in the amateur radio world, with protocols like APRS transmitting location data in very small bursts at a much slower rate 1200 bits per second.

Would it work indoors? Who knows. But developments in weak signal technologies lead me to think that it will be able to send small bits of data anywhere in the world with an off-the-shelf consumer smartphone.

Like many other tech leaps the confluence of a bunch of technological developments are coming together here: cheaper launches to space, microprocessor advancements and smaller and cheaper satellites.