Many people may have this experience: the cellular network that is accustomed to in the city, once in the deep mountains or the sea, after the signal fails, the mobile phone is like scrap iron.

Nowadays, mobile phone manufacturers are also flocking to this rather niche user demand.

On September 6, two days before the release of the iPhone 14, Huawei’s Mate 50, which was updated after two years, demonstrated such a capability—users can be used in the absence of terrestrial network signal coverage, such as in a desert without anyone. It can still achieve emergency communication services, keep in touch with the outside world, and generate multiple trajectory maps.

Yu Chengdong said that this “piercing the sky” satellite communication function is based on the Beidou satellite. In fact, the difference between satellite communication and cellular network communication is very large. Under the cellular network, the mobile phone is connected to the telecommunication network through the base station laid on the ground; while the satellite communication is to send and receive signals from the satellite to connect with the mobile phone.

Although after the release, there have been many voices questioning Huawei’s “gimmick” in the market – this is completely understandable, Beidou satellite communication is not a new technology, it has been widely used in in the military field. also,Its application in civilian fields is not uncommon, such as fishing, agriculture, forest rescue, etc., “All large pesticide sprayers in China have this function”, an industry source said.

But it is indeed the first time that satellite communication has been used on a mass smartphone. Not only Huawei is interested in this, but Apple is also aiming at the muzzle. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo previously stated that Apple completed the hardware development of satellite communication as early as the iPhone 13, and the iPhone 14 released on September 8 has more satellite communication services than Huawei provides, not only satellite communication emergency text messages , you can also receive information reply from rescue agencies.

Earlier, Musk’s satellite company Starlink and Geely’s mobile phone company Xingji Times also studied it as a major selling point. But the route is not the same as Huawei’s involvement in Beidou satellites this time.

The recent high-profile entry and intensive voice of mobile phone manufacturers directly detonated the enthusiasm of the secondary market. Last Friday, companies in related fields such as Huachuangtong and Orbit have collectively soared. The same is true abroad. The share price of satellite communication company Globalstar has soared by 70% in the past six months.

Although satellite communication is not a new thing, with the entry of major mobile phone manufacturers and the gradual maturity of the industrial chain behind it, new application space has been found on mobile phones to improve the experience of a few users in extreme situations.

From the user’s point of view, once this “emergency help” function is unfortunately fulfilled one day, it will be an unforgettable scene for a lifetime. But for hardware manufacturers, what they pursue is far more than simply improving the user experience.

Putting an old technology on a new phone is not easy

By function,Satellites include navigation, communication and remote sensing.Among them, Beidou satellite is the third global satellite navigation system after Russia’s DE glonass and the United States’ GPS, which is independently developed in China.Beidou satellites are satellites that combine the functions of navigation and communication.

In fact, at present, almost all mobile phones in China can support Beidou positioning and use the navigation function of Beidou satellites, but to achieve satellite communication functions, the overall difficulty is not small.Not only must there be hard technological breakthroughs, but also soft barriers to entry.

An industry insider said that in terms of hardware, the design of Beidou uplink antennas has changed a lot compared to traditional GPS, and radio frequency and filters need to be debugged. In addition, a separate chip needs to be added.

For all parties in the industrial chain, the technical threshold is still being broken through and resolved. For example, MediaTek has previously demonstrated the satellite communication function of 5G chips on mobile phone hardware, trying to integrate the functions into the overall SoC (system-on-chip).

In addition, China Ordnance Industry Group has also cooperated with China Mobile, China Electronics Technology Group and some domestic mobile phone manufacturers to overcome a number of key core technologies and completed the development of the first domestic mobile phone Beidou short message communication radio frequency baseband integrated chip.

A person in the communications industry told 36 Krypton that the mobile phone and the satellite are not directly connected, and some intermediate equipment is required, such as the satellite receiving antenna pot cover can be converted into WiFi before it can be connected to the mobile phone, whileCommunication RF baseband integrated chipThe effect is to “replace the antenna pot cover in the middle”. With the introduction of satellite communication into the popular terminal of mobile phones, it will drive the industry chain’s research and development of satellite communication integrated chips and drive the development of the Beidou industry chain.

In addition to the technical threshold, a mountain that needs to be crossed to install this old technology on a new mobile phone is the bandwidth access threshold.

As a high-orbit satellite, the frequency and bandwidth of Beidou satellites are relatively limited. Specifically, mobile satellite communication can only be sent based on bytes for the time being.Generally implemented in the form of “short message”. Taking Huawei mobile phones as an example, when sending and receiving two-way information through the Beidou satellite system, only 1,000 Chinese characters can be sent at a time. “It’s impossible to use Beidou satellite communication for streaming in these places,” an industry source said.

However, after Huawei, not all popular mobile phone brands will be able to follow up on this feature in the future. The aforementioned person said that the future bandwidth of Beidou satellite communication will be prioritized for the use of traditional just-needed scenarios such as fishing, forest rescue, and military.It may not be allocated to such a large group of smartphone users in China.

But another industry person also believes that if the open bandwidth of Beidou satellite communication is improved and the threshold is lowered, “it may also lead to more space and application possibilities.”

In addition, the satellite communication function of Huawei mobile phones this time, the signal is still collected by China Mobile for the time being. Therefore, in addition to the aforementioned soft and hard two-layer threshold, to achieve this function, it is necessary to coordinate the chip, mobile phone manufacturers and operation. business tripartite relationship.

The difficulty of Huawei’s efforts to promote mobile satellite communication is not without grounds. Satellite communication has its own value. Xingji Times CEO Wang Yong told 36 Krypton that from a global perspective,The coverage rate of mobile base stations is only about 21%.Deserts, high seas, plateaus and other places have not been covered,Therefore, the goal of next-generation communication in the industry is to truly realize the connection of all scenarios and domains.

From the perspective of user experience improvement, this feature has a specific meaning, butThe audience is not very broad, it is difficult for most users in cities to perceive this.“Satellite communication is more like a supplement and alternative to ground-based communication.”An industry source said.

For today’s mobile phone manufacturers with little innovation, it is not difficult to understand that it is difficult to migrate this old technology to new mobile phones – if they don’t let go of the slightest, they can sacrifice their creativity and ingenuity.

Huawei to the left, Musk Starlink to the right

The thinking of mobile phone manufacturers can actually go a step further.

The particularity of Beidou satellite determines that it cannot be connected by any mobile phone player, and it is unlikely that it will be opened to foreign manufacturers. Hardware companies have opened up another idea-to achieve coverage through low-orbit communication satellites For example, Musk’s Starlink and Geely’s Star Age.

Beidou satellites and low-orbit communication satellites are two completely different implementations. An industry insider told 36 Krypton,Star Chain pursues more broadband,That is, the ability of WIFI to surf the Internet in these sparsely populated areas, while Beidou only realizes communication in the form of short messages for the time being. “It can be simply understood that one is 5G and the other is 1G.”

The basic composition information of the low-orbit satellite communication system comes from Huatai Securities

In addition, another consideration for mobile phone manufacturers involved in low-orbit satellite communications for mobile phones is,Realize “near-field connection” and create your own ecological closed loop. After the growth of mobile phones has peaked, mobile phone manufacturers are building their own IoT ecosystems around the central point of mobile phones, and even complementing their own smart car layout. The more hardware is laid, the more important the underlying closed-loop connection and data connection are.

Wang Yong told 36 Krypton that in the era of intelligence, all devices are close at hand, but they are separated from each other and cannot provide integrated services.The problem of multi-device fusion connection can be solved through satellite. “On the vast sea and the endless desert, mobile phones can not only communicate with other places, but also communicate with each other, and it will be very convenient.”

The idea is great, and the business model is a big issue at hand. A person in the communication industry said that Starlink Internet access costs more than 100 US dollars per month, which is much higher than the broadband connection of traditional ground base stations and is not acceptable to ordinary users. Therefore, the polishing of the future business model is also an important issue in front of us.

However, Wang Yong believes that the low-orbit satellite is not a base station, but a mode of decreasing marginal cost. From the perspective of user experience,Connectivity issues, if better solved, also lead to more fun killer apps.

In addition, another limitation of the low-orbit satellite communication mode is that the current spectrum resources are quite scarce. Satellite spectrum is a global resource, and applications for satellite spectrum and orbital resources follow the principle of “first boarding, first occupying”, and those who register first have priority.

The comparison of ground mobile communication and satellite communication comes from Huatai Securities

In the opinion of an industry insider, Huawei’s firm push for this may be one of the steps in its 6G layout. In the 6G era, satellite and cellular communications will be integrated and complementary to each other. “There are no new players in the traditional ground operator model, and the cost of building a station is getting higher and higher. With the introduction of satellite communication, there will be new players. Come in”.

In any case, with the addition of Huawei and Apple, the era of mobile satellite communications has come quietly, and more opportunities will be born in the industry chain.

Editor: Huang Fei

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