It was rumored for many years, then with the Mate 50 and the iPhone 14 family, satellite communication on mobile devices kicked in the door. Of course, there have been dedicated satellite phones and communicators so that you can give a sign of life even from a place where there is no mobile network, WiFi or other terrestrial coverage. The Garmin inReach line, for example, uses the Iridium constellation and provides a paid formula for message exchange at the end of the world or in a disaster zone. Apple signed a contract with Globalstar and, for the time being, provides a relatively narrow range of assistance requests and two-way communication with official bodies, while Huawei can send a one-way emergency signal through the BeiDou constellation, in the territory of mainland China.
What is still not an option is to pull out a traditional smartphone, in the absence of surface coverage and a special target device, to make a voice call or exchange messages with anyone, anywhere on this planet, and this is what SpaceX’s second-generation Starlink satellite group, together with the American T-Mobile, is aiming for with several years of preparation. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, on the other hand, basically has hardware suitable for two-way message exchange thanks to the special RF components of the 5G modem, only now, in connection with the 2023 CES, has Qualcomm put it in the foreground. The semiconductor giant also signed a contract with Iridium to provide emergency alerts regardless of weather conditions, as well as sending SMS and other messages with anyone, although the latter is a rather vague wording.
The service Snapdragon Satellite is called, and from the second half of 2023, it will provide satellite messaging on premium devices, and Qualcomm highlights: in addition to mobile phones, laptops, tablets, vehicles and IoT devices can also join the satellite party. Of course, if a suitable Snapdragon chip is used, and there is a chance that the next Qualcomm solution for laptops and cars will have suitable components. However, there is a chance that a special antenna must also be installed, and this may be the responsibility of the manufacturing partner. It is also not clear whether the emergency signal or the exchange of messages on other satellite topics will be free, and if not, where and at what price it will be available.
The press release mentions Iridium’s other important partner, Garmin, which welcomes the opening of its own emergency alert system to its partners. In English, it seems that the request for help within the Snapdragon Satellite service is a Garmin Response and will use your SOS service, but with a suitable mobile phone, you do not need an inReach device. It’s not as if the user will save a lot by buying a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 phone, but 5G also started in the elite category and migrated to cheaper and cheaper devices over time. And the fact that after Garmin or Apple and Huawei, Qualcomm is also open, moves things in the right direction, and there have been rumors about satellite communication for a long time in connection with the Galaxy S23.
However, it will only be clear in the coming months which partners will incorporate all the components needed for this kind of messaging and whether they will agree with Qualcomm to use the Snapdragon Satellite service. From that point of view, Apple has the advantage that it designs its own mobile chips and components, so it is expected that all key components will be included in all iPhones presented after 14. Furthermore, he himself signed contracts with Globalstar and aid agencies in many countries. But the participants are not sitting idle on the Android line either: MediaTek already announced its 2023 plans for two-way satellite communication last year, and Bullitt Group, the manufacturer of CAT and Motorola strapamobiles, immediately signed up as a partner. So, if nothing else, the spirit of competition can ensure the rapid spread of this kind of data communication, but in the beginning it will probably remain the privilege of the most expensive phones.