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Huawei unveils new flagship phones with satellite connectivity

Besides being satellite-capable, the new Mate phones are also the first to be equipped with Huawei's Hongmeng 3.0 OS, and Huawei's own hardened Kunlun Glass, claimed to be ten times more resistant to breakage.

Robert Clark

September 7, 2022

3 Min Read
Huawei unveils new flagship phones with satellite connectivity

Huawei has stolen a march on Apple by announcing its first satellite-capable mobile handset.

The satellite connectivity in the new Mate 50 series, unveiled in Shenzhen Tuesday, is admittedly limited to sending but not receiving texts, and only for those outdoors in mainland China.

It is connected to the China-built Beidou satellite navigation system to get around US prohibitions on using GPS.

Figure 1: The Mate 50 Pro will be priced from 6,799 Chinese yuan (US$977) and the Mate 50 from 4,999 yuan. (Source: Karlis Dambrans on Flickr, CC 2.0) The Mate 50 Pro will be priced from 6,799 Chinese yuan (US$977) and the Mate 50 from 4,999 yuan.
(Source: Karlis Dambrans on Flickr, CC 2.0)

So while it might be a mostly symbolic milestone, pipping the launch of the Apple 14, which is expected to include some satellite connectivity, is still a milestone.

You can hardly blame Huawei, after several years in retreat and unable to embed 5G chips in their phones, for indulging in some grand talk.

"Crossing the mountains and seas, reaching the sky and the earth, the Huawei Mate 50 series has broken through the limitations of terrestrial networks to become the world's first mass smartphone that supports Beidou satellite," a company press release said.

News of the satellite capability, a first in China, was leaked before the event and was widely covered in the domestic media, with reporters tracking down the local chip companies behind the technology.

An emerging segment

But beyond Huawei, this is also another sign of an emerging new mobile industry segment.

Most prominently, T-Mobile and SpaceX last week announced their ambitions for a service that they say would cover all of the dead spots across the US. Details are sketchy, but if they can make it work, it can be replicated across the world (see T-Mobile and SpaceX want to connect regular phones to satellites).

It may not have the scale of 5G, but it certainly fires the imagination and, from the telco point of view, is a straightforward connectivity play that is in their wheelhouse.

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Satellite market specialist Northern Sky Research (NSR) has described the direct satellite-to-device market as the single biggest opportunity in satellite comms history, forecasting it will generate $60 billion in revenue over the next decade and support 350 million subs by 2030.

Besides being satellite-capable, the new Mate phones are also the first to be equipped with Huawei's Hongmeng 3.0 OS and Huawei's own hardened Kunlun Glass, claimed to be ten times more resistant to breakage. Huawei said a market survey had found that more than half of the after-sales cases in the industry were related to screen repair.

The Mate 50 Pro will be priced from 6,799 Chinese yuan (US$977) and the Mate 50 from 4,999 yuan.

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— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Robert Clark

Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

Robert Clark is an independent technology editor and researcher based in Hong Kong. In addition to contributing to Light Reading, he also has his own blog,  Electric Speech (http://www.electricspeech.com). 

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