Last week Apple launched new iPhones with many interesting new features. One feature reports if you’ve been in an accident (assuming your phone can connect), and the other connects the phone to satellite in a very limited way for the times when a cellular tower is out of range.

Starlink and T-Mobile are promoting a yet non-existent service that should make Apple’s satellite service look like it’s survived years of modems. All of these follow AST Spacemobile which will install its first 4/5G satellite next year to begin its coverage.

Let’s talk about our future of satellite cellular services this week. Then we’ll close with our product of the week: a very affordable pair of active noise-canceling headphones that could be perfect for those who take long trips and need to sleep with them.

apple fills a need

Apple’s emergency SOS via satellite service, which will be the first for these next-generation services, is very limited. One big advantage of this is that it will work long before the others reach critical mass.

If you’re in the middle of nowhere and need help, it won’t do any good to have a service that doesn’t work yet, so Apple service limitations only become a problem for Apple when other services become critical. Mass. Look for it in or around 2025.

This service only works in open areas that have a clear view to the sky and, I expect, you may have to do a little dancing sometimes to get enough signal. It won’t work if you fall into a ravine, get stuck in a cave, or are in a bunker.

Yet, every year there are a ton of people who get stuck at my place of residence. What they don’t realize is that the weather here can change very quickly, and that if you’re too far from your car or civilization in only shorts and a T-shirt, you’ll need help if this happens, or you’re likely to lose. Chances are anything from a few fingers to your life.

The app helps you find a satellite and then, through menus, uses the phone’s intelligence to narrow down the message and pass it on to someone who can help you. However, it can take anywhere from 15 seconds to several minutes for the satellite to get a clean line for this to work. So, if you have a broken leg, or are otherwise handicapped, you may still be out of luck.

Apple is working with Globalstar for this feature. iPhone 14 users, who initially got this facility, will get two years of this service for free. Until then, there will likely be alternatives available, and this initial offering will undoubtedly be even better.

The service is better than nothing and right now, unless you want to invest in an expensive Iridium (or other satellite) phone, it’s your only choice. Iridium’s service, while expensive, I remember it being much less expensive than traditional cellular, but still more expensive.

Starlink and T-Mobile

Elon Musk has an idea of ​​a minute and many are surprisingly good. Although I’ve worked with a guy like Musk and know it’s a nightmare to work for or with someone like this because not every idea is good and generally, people like this can’t tell the difference Huh.

Having said that, the idea of ​​turning Starlink satellites into a telephone solution is interesting. However, given that Starlink is already experiencing bandwidth issues, this service could make Starlink less attractive if it reduces bandwidth for existing Starlink customers.

Musk also tends to overpromise and underdeliver, miss announced delivery dates, and cause a fair number of problems for his companies. Still, SpaceX is the cheapest launch platform currently in service, surprisingly reliable, and most Starlink reviews I’ve seen have been impressively positive.

Personally, I would have waited until Starlink was profitable and performing extensively before offering another service on the network, but that’s not Musk’s way. So far, their big, risky bets have mostly worked out. But he and his companies remain a big mistake away from the crisis. Given the complexity of his companies, it looks like he’ll eventually hit a bad wall.

The service will initially be more capable than Apple’s satellite offering but will not be true cellular, and will require upgrades to the Starlink satellites. A beta of this service is rumored to last until the end of 2023, with full service expected within the next year in areas where there is a significant mass of new satellites. If it doesn’t reach critical mass, T-Mobile and Starlink are in an interesting position to be the first to succeed with a satellite-based smartphone solution.

AST Spacemobile

AST Spacemobile, which is set to launch its Low Earth satellite in 2023, has partnered with companies such as Vodafone and AT&T to provide a robust route to early worldwide coverage. They would need between 45 and 65 satellites to reach critical mass, assuming no major market changes or the emergence of largely better competitive technology, before the end of 2025.

The company is wrapped up with 2,400 patents and should be able to provide good 4/5G coverage once critical mass is achieved. The service will be treated like international travel or on-plane service to areas that have cellular options, so your phone will work where it currently doesn’t. Or as primary phone service for people who are outside cellular coverage areas, such as remote land or sea locations.

This will certainly improve ship-to-shore and most radio solutions for police and first responders are operating in areas where there is either no cellular service or where cellular service has been disrupted. Unlike the other two services, AST SpaceMobile will be like regular cellular in that it will support both voice and data and will not have the limitations of the other two services. But its quality and data throughput will surpass terrestrial cellular services indefinitely.

This service should work on planes as well and be better than what you currently get on airplanes. It will support both voice and data whereas planes currently only support data (people are against getting cellular coverage on planes for fear that those using it will drive them crazy with loud incessant phone calls).

wrapping up

With Apple’s announcement last week, we are now in the world of consumer satellite cellular communications and the growing potential to be able to call for help from anywhere in the world, regardless of where the cell tower is located.

This can be huge for those who find themselves in trouble or lost in remote areas and provides peace of mind for parents who can’t locate their children.

Apple is just the beginning. Companies like Starlink and T-Mobile promise far better data bandwidth than Apple, and AST Spacemobile promises global general-purpose 4/5G cellular service that includes both voice and data in the same general time frame. .

By the latter part of this decade, the idea of ​​going out of service may be as obsolete as the need to find a phone booth was in the 1990s. That, my friends, is something worth looking forward to.

Technical Product of the Week

Soundcore by Anker Space Q45 Noise Canceling Headphones

I travel a lot, so I have a lot of noise-canceling headphones with me.

Most headphones are not only very expensive, they are also not comfortable to sleep on a plane. Many are in the $250+ range, which is way too expensive for kids and, considering I leave these on airplanes, they add up for me too. Also, I don’t like earbuds or earplugs because they make my ears itch, which makes it difficult to sleep.

Well, I may have found the perfect solution in a set of headphones you can sleep in: the Soundcore by Anker Space Q45 Adaptive Noise Canceling Headphones. At a retail price of around $150 on Amazon, they’re not the cheapest on the market, but they’re a ton less expensive than most of the headphones I currently own.

Soundcore by Anker Space Q45 Noise Canceling Headphones

Space Q45 Noise Canceling Headphones (Images Credit: Soundcore)

These are an over-the-ear design with very soft pads, which make them much easier to sleep than my Bose and Sony headphones, and far more comfortable long-term for me than earbuds or on-ear products.

The Space Q45 headphones offer 50-hour battery life (I haven’t tested it), support Bluetooth 5.3, and have one of the most robust noise cancellation solutions I’ve tested—including five levels of noise cancellation Which are either turned off automatically or can be controlled by an app. If someone wants to chat with you – and you want to listen – they have a voice passthrough button.

These headphones have big 40mm drivers that lend themselves to decent lows and the sound quality was pretty good, to my ears, with significant range. For those who need an over-the-ear, affordable, noise-canceling solution they can sleep with, the Soundcore by Anker Space Q45 Headphones may be the ideal solution—and it’s my product of the week .

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), best known for creating the Internet, has selected 11 teams to work on its space-based adaptive communications node program for communication between low-orbit satellite networks. advanced its plan to revolutionize

Known as Space-BACN, the project seeks to build a low-cost, reconfigurable optical communications terminal that adapts to most optical intersatellite link standards while translating between different satellite constellations.

According to DARPA, Space-BACN will create an “internet” of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites that will enable seamless communication between military/government and commercial/civilian satellite constellations that are currently unable to talk with each other. are unable.

The goal of the teams working on Phase 1 of the project, which will take 14 months to complete, will be to create a preliminary design for a flexible, reduced size, weight, power and cost (SWaP-C) optical aperture that pairs Single-mode fiber and a reconfigurable optical modem that supports up to 100 Gbps on a single wavelength, as well as a fully defined interface between system components.

Also to be developed during Phase 1 will be the schema for cross-constellation command and control, which will be demonstrated in a simulated environment.

The team focusing on SWaP-C optical aperture includes CACI, MBRYONICS and Mynaric. The team working on the optical modem includes II-VI Aerospace & Defense, Arizona State University and Intel Federal. The command and control team consists of five members: SpaceX, Telesat, SpaceLink, Viasat and Amazon’s Kuiper Government Solutions.

Following the completion of Phase 1, six teams will spend 18 months developing engineering design units of optical terminal components, while the remaining five teams will continue to develop schemas to function in more challenging and dynamic scenarios.

Multiple commercial and social beneficiaries

Jim Dunston, general counsel for TechFreedom, a technology advocacy group in Washington, DC, pointed out that optical intersatellite links are a new technology without established interconnection standards.

“I see the satellite industry as a big winner here, more so than end-users, given that the power – 100 watts – and the price – $100K – are going to prevent widespread use of technologies for a single user terminal. that emerged from this program,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“What Space-BACN does, however, is get all players into the same virtual room to work on standards that are much needed, and allow them both to receive federal support for their research and to work with other companies.” Allows you to take advantage of the work.” He continued.

“While a DARPA video space-BACN has been done with first responder communications, as has been done with first responder communications—replace a myriad of individual proprietary systems operating at disparate frequencies—I don’t think the analogy is appropriate here. There is more power reason for the price,” he said.

However, DARPA projects have a way of having a wider impact than may initially seem obvious. “There are many commercial and social beneficiaries that are outside the formal focus of the program,” said Arizona State University professor Daniel Bliss, director of the Center for Wireless Information Systems and Computational Architecture.

“The technologies we will develop are widely applicable to processing and communication,” he told TechNewsWorld. “In the context of the program’s specific goals, we are proving flexible, efficient and relatively low-cost optical communications technologies to rapidly expand diverse low-cost satellite systems.”

reduce LEO costs

Existing operators of satellite constellations in non-geostationary orbit (NGSO), such as Elon Musk’s Starlink network, may eventually benefit from Space-BACN, Dunston noted.

“Optical interconnection is still one of the big value drivers of NGSO systems,” he said. “The radio side of things has been largely commoditized. You can buy very sophisticated software-defined radios [SDRs] Very cheap.”

“Optical systems are still very expensive,” he continued, “so Space-BACN has an opportunity to reduce some of that cost, benefiting all NGSO operators.”

“For existing and new LEOs [Low Eart Orbit] network, we enable the ability to connect legacy and yet-to-be-defined optical communications links,” Bliss said. “We can translate between optical standards and implement new standards as they develop, potentially officially after the launch.”

By putting together the teams for Space-BACN, DARPA attempted to remove friction for the many firms wishing to participate in the project.

“We intentionally proposed to make our Space-BACN requests as easy as possible, because we wanted to tap into the large pool of both established defense companies and innovative small tech companies, many of which do not have the time or resources to make complex government contracts. trace processes,” Space-BACN program manager Greg Kuperman said in a statement.

“We have used other transactions and are very pleased with [the] The diversity of organizations responding and the quality of the proposals,” he said.

democratization of space

Dunstan stressed that DARPA hit a “sweet spot” with the Space-BACN program. “It cast a wide net, bringing both very established and relative newcomers to the table,” he said.

“It uses DARPA’s other transaction authorization [OTA] To avoid the high overhead of most government funding mechanisms,” he continued, “and the 11 winners in Phase I mean that DARPA can take on more risk and allow some failure in the process without jeopardizing the program’s overall goal.” can give.”

The ability of small firms to participate in a project like Space-BACN reflects what the satellite industry is like today. “In the past, satellites used to cost a fortune to build,” explained John Strand of Strand Consulting in Denmark. “We are now seeing smaller companies with limited funding to build satellites for limited applications.”

“They can build satellites using standard components, the same way you would build a custom computer,” he told TechNewsWorld. “So if you look at the number of companies in the satellite industry, it’s booming.”

“Space, historically, has centralized government,” he said. “What’s happening with the space industry now is that it has become democratized because the cost of putting things in space for private-public partnerships has dropped dramatically.”

Safety Questions

In its kickoff announcement for Space-BACN, DARPA said it hopes to establish seamless communication between military/government and commercial/civilian satellite constellations. This could be the rub of the future in the program’s future.

“That would be the final question – can you secure the military/civilian interface,” Dunston said.

“Optical systems are less likely to jam because of their tighter beams. They may also be less prone to hacking, but that remains to be seen,” he continued. “My guess is that DARPA is so interested in the project. One reason is that they can get a window into the security capabilities of these types of networks.”

“Certainly the DoD is not going to sign up for an interface between defense and civilian satellite systems that they cannot secure,” he said. “Given how much SpaceCom traffic currently travels on civilian systems, my guess is that they feel pretty confident they can secure their side of the interface.”

Bliss acknowledged that it’s not always a good idea to directly implement commercial communication technologies. But, he added, “because of the flexibility we’re developing, we can maximize the benefits of leveraging commercial technologies while minimizing security risks.”