From Huawei to Apple's satellite communication

Recently, Huawei and Apple mentioned that the new phone has satellite communication function, which opens a window for the communication needs of emergency scenarios.


  Satellite communication is not a new technology. For example, radio and television, the Internet, etc. in daily life have had certain applications before, but they are more used in public utility scenarios. The actions of the two leading manufacturers this time mean that this technology has entered the mass consumer market for the first time. Only based on the different types of satellites connected to each other, the information transmission capabilities that can be achieved at present are different.


  Of course, the current application of satellite communication in mobile phones still faces realistic considerations such as high cost, relatively complex modules, and low frequency of use. Compared with satellite communication, another low-power transmission technology, LoRa, can also be implemented in a certain space environment. Emergency communication function, the module cost is also lower.


  At present, the new entrants in the market, Xingji Era, and even Musk's Starlink, have proposed to build communication capabilities focusing on the integration of space and space. According to the industry consensus, after the commercial use of 6G technology in the future, it will also usher in a connection of space and space information transmission. The era of satellite communication may also play an important role in the 6G era.


  Advanced satellite communication


  In the early years, satellite communication technology has been applied in three types of 2B scenarios one after another.


  Bank of China Securities analysis pointed out that satellite communication is an important achievement of the combination of aerospace technology and modern communication technology, and has been widely used in fields such as radio and television, mobile communication and broadband Internet.


  For example, 8 sets of CCTV, 7 sets of Central People's Broadcasting Station, 1 set of programs of China International Radio Station and provincial-level stations are all applications of satellite communication in radio and television. In terms of mobile communication, satellite communication can be used in the fields of ocean fishing, oil exploration, aviation and shipping, distance education and medical treatment, bipolar scientific research and international peacekeeping. In the field of broadband Internet, satellite communication is widely used in "communication in motion" Internet access, providing broadband Internet access, streaming media and video services to mobile vehicles such as aircraft, ships, and high-speed rail that cannot be reached by ground networks, breaking through the speed bottleneck of traditional satellites.


  Now the commercial use of Huawei and Apple means that satellite communication has begun to enter the consumer market.


  "As far as I know, other mobile phone manufacturers are also paying attention to or developing related products, and more manufacturers will follow in the future. Satellite communication is not only promoted by mobile phone manufacturers, but by the satellite communication industry." IDC China Senior Analyst Guo Tianxiang told the 21st Century Business Herald reporter that if it is only used for ordinary mobile phone users, the possibility of satellite communication services being profitable is very small, and more should be used in other industries, such as automatic driving, positioning and navigation in the automotive industry. .


  "Especially now that the connection between mobile phone manufacturers and new energy vehicles is getting closer and closer, it is more likely to make profits through applications in other industries in the future. Of course, in the automotive industry, this technology is still being verified and has not yet been implemented. But I believe that the future will be related to The industry will still have a lot of room for development," he continued.


  However, if you take a closer look, you will find that the information sending and receiving capabilities that Huawei and Apple can currently achieve are not the same. Since it is connected to the high-orbit satellite Beidou, Huawei can only send short messages at present, while Apple is linked to low-orbit satellites, which can send and receive information.


  "Beidou's satellite communication mainly uses the geostationary orbit satellites in the Beidou-3 system. Its advantage is that it is always above our heads, and as long as it is in an open and unshaded place, satellite messages can be sent. But as a high-orbit satellite, Beidou satellites launch The frequency and bandwidth of the signal are greatly limited. Mobile satellite communication can only send bytes for the time being, but cannot receive it.” Guo Tianxiang analyzed that Starlink is a low-orbit satellite system and will only pass over people’s heads in a short period of time. When connecting to satellites , you need to always point the mobile phone to the mobile bearing of the satellite. But as a low-orbit satellite, it can have more bandwidth, so it can send and receive information.


  "The two are different in transmission delay, transmission loss, moving speed of sub-satellite points, beam coverage, satellite capacity, system reliability, etc. In addition, there are differences in satellite manufacturing costs, rocket and launch costs, ground station construction costs and end-use terminals. Costs are also quite different." He further said.


  Of course, a lot of technical adjustments are required behind the ability to have satellite communication, and it also faces the current high cost threshold. This makes satellite communication technology not a universal application in mobile phones in the short term, which is why Apple does not talk much about this capability.


  "Mobile phone brand manufacturers are more competitive in the high-end market. In addition to better supply chain control capabilities to reduce costs, they must continue to make breakthrough innovations." Xie Yushan, an analyst at TrendForce, also analyzed to reporters that mobile phones must be connected to satellites. , In addition to the need to increase the transmission power, on the other hand, it is necessary to strengthen the satellite signal. At present, mobile phones have built-in antennas. To connect to satellites, a large external antenna is required. "With natural disasters and geopolitical conflicts, voice services, emergency text messages, etc. in satellite communications have the opportunity to become a must-have feature on smartphones," she continued.


  The evolution of holographic communication


  Judging from the current commercial progress and scene practicability, although the demand for emergency communication scenarios does exist, it is not necessarily a must-have function for popular mobile phones.


  Guo Tianxiang analyzed to reporters that compared with the usual satellite phones and other equipment, satellite communication applications on mobile phones have higher requirements for signal reception and transmission capabilities and RF modules, so the cost of the whole machine will be significantly increased. Judging from the current business model on mobile phones, no matter whether it is charged or not, it is difficult for satellite communication companies to make profits because of the limited user groups involved, and they need to find new business models to realize.


  At a recent press conference held by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, there were more news that new network models support Beidou. According to Xu Wenli, deputy director of the Electronic Information Department of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, in the first half of 2022, 128 models of newly connected mobile phones support Beidou, with a total shipment of 132 million units, accounting for 98.5% of the shipments.


  However, Guo Tianxiang pointed out that the support for Beidou mentioned here mainly refers to the use of Beidou satellite positioning, not the use of Beidou satellite communication. "From supporting Beidou to the actual commercial use, there are still many technical requirements. For example, the communication protocol and communication frequency band are different from the ground mobile communication network, and the baseband processing, radio frequency circuit and antenna design of mobile phones are different."


  From this point of view, satellite communication may not be the optimal solution in emergency communication scenarios.


  Around 2019, some major mobile phone manufacturers have successively demonstrated LoRa, another non-network communication technology. This is a type of low-power wide-area network LPWAN, and the other is the more widely known NB-IoT.


  According to the display at that time, in the state of no signal, two mobile phones of the same model can realize text and even voice calls, also known as "no network communication technology". Of course, this is only feasible at the technical operation level. If the technology is to be truly realized, it will also face regulatory approval, supply chain and other considerations.


  Xie Yushan analyzed to reporters that LoRa and satellite communication can be used as complementary technologies. "Currently low-power long-distance IoT technologies, such as LoRa or NB-IoT, provide direct communication between IoT devices and satellites around the world, which are regarded as part of the low-power wide-area network market, but in terms of positioning accuracy, different The requirements of application scenarios are different, some scenarios require high-precision positioning, and some only require an approximate positioning range." She continued that LoRa Edge is mainly aimed at the positioning range of 10-50m to achieve a medium-precision positioning system. Based on its positioning solution, it can be customized according to the specific needs of the client, its terminal battery life can reach several months or even years, and its module cost is less than 5 US dollars.


  Of course, from the perspective of the vertical development trend of communication, whether it is the low-cost IoT connection technology or the current high-cost satellite communication technology, it is a foothold towards the future era of holographic communication. In other words, a consensus in the communication industry is that the future communication will be a development trend of complementary multi-type communication capabilities.


  Although it cannot be said that the satellite communication technology explored by the current leading mobile phone manufacturers must be a rehearsal preparation for the 6G era, but according to the industry consensus, 6G technology will indeed bring about a communication development stage that integrates space and space.


  From this point of view, it is not difficult to understand why the new entrants in the industry, Xingji Times and Musk's Starlink, have greater hopes for the mobile phone market in the Red Sea. Li Shufu, chairman of Xingji Times, has previously established a new company to make stars, and Starlink is also actively launching satellites.


  "6G demand indicators are mainly based on the improvement of 5G, including user transmission speed, maximum transmission speed, regional capacity, mobility, reliability, delay, connection density, battery, etc. In addition, 6G brings a large number of new technical scenarios, and These technical scenarios put forward higher requirements for positioning services, so 6G puts more emphasis on location correctness." Xie Yushan analyzed this to the 21st Century Business Herald reporter.

 She further analyzed that in the 6G era, it is expected that 6G signals can be transmitted from the ground, at sea to 2,000 kilometers from the surface, that is, a wide area within low earth orbit, and the signal transmission efficiency will no longer be affected by the size of the settlement, the amount of ground infrastructure or the terrain. Masking and significant differences, and then achieve global communication. During this process, any areas that cannot be covered by base stations and are difficult to cover are expected to be filled by satellite signals. Therefore, the role of satellite communications in the 6G era will become increasingly critical.


  Guo Tianxiang told reporters that at the current stage, the future development of 6G technology is still full of variables, but in the future, satellite and cellular communications will be integrated and complementary to each other, realizing 6G + satellite communication + near field communication.


  From this, it can be expected that a smoother communication and interactive environment will be realized in the near future, and it will also bring more abundant application scenarios to expand the space.


  "As smartphones connect to satellite networks, it will likely change the rules of the industry game. In addition to providing seamless connectivity without dead ends around the world, there will be more non-terrestrial network (NTN) applications in the future, using space (Space) -Brone) carrier or high-altitude (Air-Brone) carrier, the carrier configures communication transmission equipment to achieve communication network coverage." Xie Yushan continued.

 Author: Luo Yiqi Editor: 


(Disclaimer: This article only represents the author's point of view and does not represent the position of

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