Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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China Unveils First Satellite Smartphone with Coverage up to South China Sea

Call anywhere

(Photo : CASTC) TT-1, China's first satellite smartphone.

A state-owned company has unveiled China's first satellite smartphone that allows users to call anywhere in China and the disputed South China Sea.

The "TT-1" smartphone developed by state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC) should hit store shelves by January 2017. It will retail from about $1,480 (RMB 10,000).

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The cost per call is around $0.15 (RMB1.00) per minute, which experts said is only a tenth of the price charged by Inmarsat.

The satellite smartphone was specially designed for emergency communication by field geologists or relief workers in remote areas. It can also be used when ground telecommunication networks are severed by natural disaster or accidents.

TT-1 is also compatible with multiple ground-based cellular networks, including 4G LTE and 3G. It supports SMS, WeChat, video and data transmission, and allows free switching between satellite and ground communication.

TT-1 also supports the U.S. Global Positioning System and China's own Beidou satellite navigation system.

"The TT-1 smartphone is so far capable of covering the territory of China and the whole of South China Sea," said a CASTC engineer.

"We are going to expand our coverage to the whole world by launching a network of TT satellites in the next five years."

TT-1 relies on Tiantong-1, China's first and only mobile communications satellite, for its vast coverage.

Tiantong-1 was launched last Aug. 5 using a Long March-3B/G2 (Chang Zheng-3B/G2) from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

Information about Tiantong-1 is very limited but the satellite will provide mobile communications services around to China and to the Middle East, Africa, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. The satellite mobile communication system application subsystem was developed by Henan Communication Technology Co., Ltd.

Tiantong-1 is first in a series. It's an S-Band mobile communications satellite developed by the Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST) and operated by China Telecom. The secretive nature of the launch, however, means this satellite will be employed for military purposes.

"It is the first satellite of China's home-made satellite mobile telecom system, and a key part of the country's space information infrastructure," said Chinese media.

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