Science & Technology

Apple is reportedly working on a secret satellite communications project

Apple has joined SpaceX, OneWeb, Amazon and different corporations in concentrating on the marketplace for satellite web providers, Bloomberg News reported today.

Bloomberg quoted unidentified individuals acquainted with the work as saying that the California-based firm has a secret workforce working on applied sciences that it may use to beam web providers on to units, bypassing wi-fi networks. The hassle is reportedly nonetheless in its early phases and will not essentially come to fruition.

Apple didn’t instantly reply to GeekWire’s inquiries concerning the report.

The applied sciences may very well be used to transmit knowledge to a consumer’s smartphone or different system, or to hyperlink cell units collectively with out a conventional wi-fi community, Bloomberg reported. They may additionally enhance location monitoring for mapping and navigation apps.

Bloomberg stated it wasn’t clear whether or not Apple would pursue the event of a devoted satellite constellation, or piggyback on satellites which can be already in orbit or within the works.

If all of the identified plans for mega-constellations come to move, tens of 1000’s of satellites may very well be despatched into low Earth orbit, or LEO, over the subsequent decade to widen web entry for billions of people who find themselves presently underserved in the case of broadband.

SpaceX alone has proposed launching up to 42,000 satellites for its Starlink broadband network. Greater than 100 of the flat-panel satellites — developed and constructed at SpaceX’s amenities in Redmond, Wash. — have already been put into orbit for testing. Dozens extra may very well be launched throughout the subsequent month.

OneWeb has additionally began positioning broadband satellites in LEO, with plans to supply limited service for subscribers in the Arctic in late 2020.

Amazon, in the meantime, is laying plans to create a 3,236-satellite Project Kuiper constellation for web service, to be offered to subscribers and used for facilitating in-house knowledge choices reminiscent of Amazon Internet Companies. Simply this week, the Seattle firm stated it could be expanding its Project Kuiper team and moving to new offices in Redmond.

Different gamers within the satellite web race embrace Telesat, and probably Facebook and Boeing as effectively.

Bloomberg reported that Apple has began hiring new software program and {hardware} specialists for its satellite service workforce. It stated the workforce’s leaders are Michael Trela and John Fenwick, former aerospace engineers who performed main roles at Skybox Imaging earlier than it was sold to Google in 2014.

Trela and Fenwick headed up Google’s satellite effort, however left that firm in 2017 to hitch Apple. Even at the moment, some sources speculated that the move was part of a plan to partner with Boeing on a satellite broadband project.

The chief who beforehand led the Apple workforce, Greg Duffy, left the company in June. However Trela and Fenwick are increasing the trouble, Bloomberg quoted its sources as saying.

It’s not clear what Apple’s involvement within the satellite web market may imply for different gamers within the mega-constellation race. Some observers are already voicing warning about a potential broadband glut, analogous to what occurred with Teledesic, Celestri and SkyBridge in the 1990s. There are additionally considerations concerning the results of a proliferation of satellites on astronomical observations and space traffic management.

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