Satellite connectivity is coming to a full range of devices.
Qualcomm has confirmed that it will be connecting more smartphones in more ways thanks to the evolution of Snapdragon Satellite. Space is the next frontier for communication, with a number of companies looking at ways to use satellite communications in their devices and ensure that users never find themselves in a dead spot.
Qualcomm’s plan will take advantage of the Iridium network of low-Earth orbiting satellites, meaning that if you can see the sky, you’ll be able to stay connected. The service will support SMS messaging, two-way messaging for emergency use, and some other messaging services that haven’t yet been revealed.
Snapdragon Satellite is designed to keep you connected when you’re in remote locations, off the beaten track or in offshore locations. Currently it’s not clear whether this will be part of existing network connectivity or if this will need a subscription to access additional services – which is how the recently-announced Motorola Defy Satellite Link works.
What Qualcomm has confirmed is that in the future all 5G Modem-RF systems will support the technology, potentially meaning that any device using Qualcomm’s modem could offer satellite connectivity.
Beyond that, Qualcomm says that it will be supported by a number of tiers of its hardware, from 8 series down to 4 – although the timeline for this support currently isn’t clear.
So far the company has confirmed that it will be working with Xiaomi, Oppo, Honor, Vivo, Nothing and Motorola to produce devices that will offer satellite messaging, but we’d expect that other brands could just as easily access the technology. It has previously been suggested that Samsung may offer satellite connectivity via its own Exynos modem, but again, there’s no reason why Samsung couldn’t also be on the list.
Snapdragon Satellite will support 5G NTNs – non-terrestrial networks – so you can expect a boom in satellite connectivity over the coming months and years.
Currently, satellite connectivity is offered by Apple with its Emergency SOS system on the iPhone 14, as well as by Huawei in China. Apple’s system is designed for emergencies but it’s clear that Qualcomm’s plans go beyond emergency situations to include some form of regular messaging too.
That’s also true of the Motorola system which uses Bullitt Satellite Messenger, a subscription service that allows you to send a certain number of messages a month. Exactly how messages will be handled on Snapdragon Satellite remains unclear, but we’re expecting a range of solutions to be revealed as the tech rolls out.
Currently there’s no confirmation of when we’ll see devices connected via satellite.