Satellite technology is expensive. SpaceX’s Starlink dropped prices and raised speeds significantly, presiding over a wave of interest and uptake in satellite Wi-Fi.
But satellite messaging and video calling remain expensive, with basic satellite messaging plans typically offering a small number of messages for a large subscription fee—and that’s without the one-off fee to purchase an entirely separate device to begin with.
At CES 2023, Bullitt Group revealed its new two-way satellite messaging service, which will drop the cost of satellite messaging and make it easier to use.
So, what is Bullitt Satellite Connect, and how does it work?
What Is Bullitt Satellite Connect?
In short, Bullitt Satellite Connect is a new two-way satellite messaging service that will launch using one of Motorola’s Defy rugged smartphones (and eventually, CAT rugged smartphones, both of which Bullitt Group has partnerships with). But where most satellite messaging services use the Iridium satellite network, Bullitt Satellite Connect will use Skylo to avoid being locked into the Iridium network. Partnering with Skylo enables Bullitt Satellite Connect to use any partner satellite constellations, including Inmarsat, which will deliver global coverage.
Furthermore, Bullitt’s devices will use a MediaTek chipset instead of the popular Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset, enabling the company to deliver the world’s first 3GPP device-to-device connectivity. Effectively, Bullitt Group is building out a satellite messaging service that anyone can use, driven particularly by the delivery of a device you can use outside of satellite messaging (i.e., your regular smartphone) and making it cheaper to access.
Speaking to MakeUseOf at CES 2023, Bullitt Group co-founder Richard Wharton said that the overall goal is to “democratize satellite messaging” and that the only way to do this is to reduce the price while making services easier to use.
And on this second point, a key element of Bullitt Satellite Connect is the Bullitt Satellite Messenger app, a free app that anyone can download for Android and iOS. The key thing here is that while the app will send satellite messages from a satellite-enabled device, it can also send a receive regular messages using cellular or Wi-Fi data.
But when you’re in a situation where you have no Wi-Fi and are out of cellular range, the app will switch to sending a message using the host device’s satellite antenna.
Note that downloading the Bullitt Satellite Messenger doesn’t auto-magically turn your phone into a satellite messaging device.
However, if you send a satellite message to a number without satellite connectivity, they’ll still receive the message with a link to download the app so it can be read and responded to.
Integrated SOS Mode & Messaging Packages
As you’d expect with a rugged smartphone with built-in satellite messaging, one of the primary uses is for SOS messaging. Bullitt’s SOS emergency response plan is available as a free 12-month, after which it switches to a fee model. Under both plans, there is unlimited SOS messaging, connecting you to your nearest emergency response team via satellite messaging.
As mentioned above, you can still send SOS messages to devices without satellite connectivity, which is important in critical situations.
Bullitt Group’s other messaging packages aim to bring the cost of satellite messaging down, too:
- 30 messages per month, $4.99
- 125 messages per month, $9.99
- 400 messages per month, $29.99
There is also a year-long subscription for $60 that gives you 400 messages over a 12-month period.
Will Bullitt Satellite Connect Beat Out Iridium Network Devices?
The biggest battle facing Bullitt Group and its new satellite messaging system is competition from devices using the Iridium network. Iridium is widely considered the best option for SOS emergency messaging due to its global coverage.
In time, Bullitt Group will expand its satellite messaging offering to include voice data, which will be a further boon to its burgeoning satellite messaging service, and certainly give it the edge over options like the popular Garmin inReach Mini 2.
Bullitt Group confirmed to MakeUseOf that its service will launch fully in North America and Europe during Q1 2023, with other global regions following on throughout the year.
Technology Explained,Satellite,Instant Messaging,Emergency,CES 2023