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Apple Has Secret Team Working on Satellites to Beam Data to Devices

The iPhone maker is ramping up hiring, hoping for the initiative to produce results within five years. 

Apple Inc. has a secret team working on satellite technology that the iPhone maker could use to beam internet services directly to devices, bypassing wireless networks, according to people familiar with the work.

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. Still, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has shown interest in the project, indicating it’s a company priority.

Apple’s work on communications satellites and next-generation wireless technology means the aim is likely to beam data to a user’s device, potentially mitigating the dependence on wireless carriers, or for linking devices together without a traditional network. Apple could also be exploring satellites for more precise location tracking for its devices, enabling improved maps and new features.