Report: Apple Has 'Secret Team' Working on Satellites to Beam Data Directly to iPhones

Apple has a dedicated research team looking into new ways to beam data like internet connectivity directly to iPhones and other devices, reports Bloomberg's Mark Gurman.

iPhone in Space

The Cupertino, California-based iPhone maker has about a dozen engineers from the aerospace, satellite and antenna design industries working on the project with the goal of deploying their results within five years, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal company efforts. Work on the project is still early and could be abandoned, the people said, and a clear direction and use for satellites hasn’t been finalized.

According to the report, Apple's main aim is to beam data to a user's ‌iPhone‌, potentially reducing the dependence on wireless carriers, or for linking devices together without a traditional network, thereby mitigating coverage issues. Apple could also be exploring satellites for more precise location tracking for its devices, enabling improved maps and new features.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has reportedly made the project a company priority, and Apple is said to be ramping up hiring, with new software and hardware experts being added to the team. The company has also hired additional executives from the aerospace and wireless data delivery fields, and is seeking engineers with experience in designing components for communications equipment. Apple is said to be hoping for the initiative to produce results within five years.

Back in 2017, Bloomberg reported that Apple had hired John Fenwick and Michael Trela, two Google executives who led the search giant's satellite and spacecraft operations. At the time, what the two would be doing at Apple was unclear, but Bloomberg now reports that Fenwick and Trela are leading the team dedicated to satellites and related wireless technology.

According to the report, the team has recently added people from the wireless industry, including engineer Matt Ettus, one of the foremost names in wireless technologies; Ashley Moore Williams, a longtime executive from Aerospace who focused on communication satellites; and Daniel Ellis, a former Netflix executive who helped oversee the company's Content Delivery Network. Ellis is said to have experience in building networks that can beam content and information on a global scale.

What remains unclear is whether Apple plans to develop its own satellite systems or make use of ground-based technology that could receive data from existing satellites and send it to mobile devices. Efforts by the likes of Facebook and Amazon to deploy satellites are a long way from becoming reality, but Apple could potentially look to existing satellite makers like Lockheed Martin or Boeing to provide the necessary hardware in the sky.

Top Rated Comments

madmin Avatar
18 months ago
We've seen more and more govts cutting internet services during protests, using the internet to spy on their populations and to influence public opinion. For these and other reasons, bypassing local telecommunication systems is a very interesting proposition.
Score: 39 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ruka.snow Avatar
18 months ago
And sharks with lasers?
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LastStarfighter Avatar
18 months ago
This is really interesting. Building in Sat-com to iPhones would be a serious differentiator in the market. Perhaps if it's even just for emergency SOS calls from anywhere on earth, still an awesome technology and something that I think really would add value to the Apple mobile device proposition for me personally as a hiker.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
centauratlas Avatar
18 months ago
Perhaps bypassing the great firewall of China etc.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
junkw Avatar
18 months ago
Not sure why it's a company priority
What do they know that we don't know?
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
madmin Avatar
18 months ago

I’m serious though. No more upgrading your phone because it’s become slow or having to buy expensive “Pro” devices for processor intensive tasks - everything is being run on their servers and your device is basically just a screen.
...till they shoot down or otherwise interupt the satellite, then it'll just be a brick. This whole thin thick client story is decades old btw.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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