Chinese Aerospace Giant Launches their First Satellite Communication Smartphone

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) has introduced the first satellite smartphone designed for use with the country’s a first mobile communications satellite, Tiantong-1 (TT-1). They unveiled this smartphone at the six-day Airshow Event in Zhuhai, Guangdong.

The new smartphone will be available for sale in the next two to three months, where it will compete in a global market dominated by the British Inmarsat system. CASC launched the TT-1 into an equator-hugging, geostationary orbit about 35,000 km above the earth on August 6.

Satellite experts said the new satellite smartphone was a product of the “space-based Silk Road”, a long-term strategy proposed by Chinese aerospace companies, institutions and scholars to support the country’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

The TT-1 smartphone is capable of covering the territory of China and the whole South China Sea. CASC plans to expand their coverage to the whole world by launching a network of TT satellites in the next five years.

The smartphone was specially designed for emergency communications by field geologists or relief workers in remote areas, or when ground telecommunication networks were interrupted by natural disaster or accidents. It also supports the US Global Positioning System and China's home-developed Beidou navigation system.

Besides satellite coverage, the smartphone is compatible with multiple ground-based cellular networks, including 4G LTE and 3G. It also supports SMS, WeChat, video and data transmission, and allows free switching between satellite and ground communication. The smartphone will retail from around 10,000 yuan, which is about $1,500 and will have a communication fee starting at about 1 yuan per minute ($0.14). This is about a tenth of the price charged by Inmarsat.

Professor He Qisong, a satellite expert at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said the development of the satellite smartphone indicated that China was starting to carry out its global strategy by setting up an independent communication network from ground to space. The ‘space-based Silk Road’ is one of the applications of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiatives by providing an independent and secure, but convenient and low-cost communication network for those Chinese companies that are expanding into overseas markets at Beijing’s urging.

Earlier reports from Xinhua said the Tiantong system had reached users in China, the Middle East, Africa and other regions. CASC says the network’s ground service will be operated by China Telecom.