China’s Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. unveiled its latest flagship smartphone with satellite communications capabilities on Tuesday, leaving behind market leaders Apple Inc AAPL and South Korea’s Samsung SSNLF, which are also working on satellite connectivity.
What Happened: Huawei introduced the new technology in its Mate 50 series as the Chinese tech giant looks to get around U.S. restrictions on its access to 5G wireless technologies.
The new technology will allow Huawei’s customers to send short messages via the BeiDou navigation satellite system — the Chinese version of the Global Positioning System (GPS) developed by the U.S. Air Force.
The BeiDou network’s worldwide coverage in 2020 had come across as a major milestone for Beijing, which was eyeing to create its own system for future communications, navigation, and scientific research that does not rely on GPS or any other global navigation systems for a long time.
“Currently, only Chinese chip developers are allowed to design chips that link to China’s BeiDou. It’s a business unique to Chinese companies,” Jeff Pu, an analyst with Haitong International Securities, told Nikkei Asia.
However, Pu also warned that Huawei’s breakthrough does not necessarily mean that customers will always send messages or make calls via satellite. “That could consume a lot of battery power and could be very expensive,” he said.
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