Iridium, a satellite phone company, and Qualcomm, a chip manufacturer, are partnering to bring satellite connectivity to premium Android smartphones later in the year.
Connect To Satellites
The Partnership will mean that in areas where there is no mobile coverage, users will be able to connect to passing satellites to send and receive messages using their Android smartphones.
Premium Android Phones First – Then Other Devices
Qualcomm’s chips are found in many Android smartphones, and the new feature, called Snapdragon Satellite, will initially only be available in premium chips. However, it is expected to eventually be rolled out to tablets, laptops, and even vehicles, plus it may also be offered as a fee-based service for non-emergency communication.
Qualcomm has said, however, that emergency messaging on Snapdragon ® Satellite is likely to be available, in conjunction with Garmin, on next-generation smartphones, launched in select regions starting in the second half of 2023.
What Is Snapdragon®?
Qulacomm says that Snapdragon® technology will enable the satellite linking thanks to its AI-based and “groundbreaking” ‘Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform’. Qualcomm says Snapdragon® Satellite “offers truly global coverage1 from pole to pole and can support two-way messaging for emergency use, SMS texting, and other messaging applications – for a variety of purposes such as emergencies or recreation in remote, rural and offshore locations”.
Satellite connectivity is seen as the next step in addressing “not-spots” – areas with no existing mobile coverage, particularly in rural or remote locations. However, use of the feature will be subject to local government regulations, as some countries, such as India and China, ban the usage of satellite phones.
Iridium provides satellite phone services by operating its own network of 66 active satellites in low-Earth orbit, providing coverage over the entire planet, including the poles.
Iridium satellite phone users can receive phone calls, send & receive text messages, plus access the internet from any location on Earth where there is an unobstructed view of the sky. The partnership between Iridium and chip manufacturer Qualcomm will open up satellite phone connections to a much wider customer base.
Elon Musk’s company SpaceX also famously provides a satellite connection service through Starlink which was recently announced as being chosen by the UK government to take part in a £100 million trial in the Lake District to bring satellite broadband to particularly remote areas, with plans to roll it out to all such UK areas if successful. In August last year, Cruise company Royal Caribbean Group also announced that it would be using Starlink to provide Internet for broadband connections aboard its ships.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Although being able to automatically get a satellite connection on the phone sounds like a very promising development, it is currently difficult to say exactly how this will affect the market as it will actually depend on a number of factors including the cost of the service, the quality of the connection, plus the availability of alternative methods of communication and any competing services, e.g. Starlink. However, it is fair to say that this technology could be particularly useful in areas where traditional cellular coverage is patchy or non-existent, as it would allow customers such as business users in those areas to have a more reliable way to communicate.
It could also potentially be useful for those people who frequently travel to remote locations or engage in outdoor activities, as it would allow them to stay connected even in areas where there is no cellular coverage. As the growth of Starlink shows, more satellites are being launched by more companies due to improved space and satellite technology, so with the ongoing need to quickly meet demand for more mobile devices around the world, satellite services for phone and broadband connections look set to grow.