Semiconductor manufacturer Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., on Thursday, announced the world’s first satellite-based two-way capable messaging solution provided through satellite telecommunications company Iridium for next-generation premium Android smartphones, at the ongoing Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2023 in Las Vegas.
The functionality, called “Snapdragon Satellite”, is similar to Apple’s “Emergency SOS” via satellite, which was rolled out alongside the iPhone 14 and iPhone Pro 14 models to text emergency services when you are out of cellular and Wi-Fi coverage. Currently, Apple’s Emergency SOS feature is only available in the U.S., Canada, the UK, France, Germany, and Ireland.
On the other hand, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Satellite will allow Android devices equipped with the Snapdragon X70 modem and Qualcomm’s SOC to connect to satellites in order to send and receive emergency messages, SMS, and texts on other messaging apps when no cellular signal is available.
The chip maker has also clarified that the functionality can be used in both emergency and non-emergency situations, such as for recreation in remote, rural, and offshore locations.
The satellite-based messaging service will first come to devices based on the company’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 mobile platform, which is expected to be available on next-generation smartphones, launched in select regions starting in the second half of 2023.
Snapdragon Satellite is powered by Snapdragon 5G Modem-RF Systems and supported by the fully operational Iridium satellite constellation. However, it will be up to individual OEMs and service providers to activate the functionality on their specific devices.
Further, the solution for smartphones uses Iridium’s weather-resilient L-band spectrum for uplink and downlink.
“Robust and reliable connectivity is at the heart of premium experiences. Snapdragon Satellite showcases our history of leadership in enabling global satellite communications and our ability to bring superior innovations to mobile devices at scale,” said Durga Malladi, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Cellular Modems and Infrastructure, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.
“Kicking off in premium smartphones later this year, this new addition to our Snapdragon platform strongly positions us to enable satellite communication capabilities and service offerings across multiple device categories.”
In addition to smartphones, the Snapdragon Satellite platform will also eventually expand to other platforms, including laptops, tablets, vehicles, and other internet of things (IoT) connected devices in the future. OEMs and app makers might also offer unique branded services taking advantage of satellite connectivity
It is expected that Snapdragon Satellite will support 5G Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN), as NTN satellite infrastructure and constellations become available, for branded services that will differ by carrier and device maker.
Qualcomm notes that you will need a “clear view of the sky” to use satellite messaging. Once enabled, an on-screen message will offer assistance on where to exactly point your device to connect to a satellite to send a message.
“Iridium is proud to be the satellite network that supports Snapdragon Satellite for premium smartphones,” said Matt Desch, CEO, Iridium.
“Our network is tailored for this service – our advanced, LEO satellites cover every part of the globe and support the lower-power, low-latency connections ideal for the satellite-powered services enabled by the industry-leading Snapdragon Satellite. Millions depend on our connections every day, and we look forward to the many millions more connecting through smartphones powered by Snapdragon Satellite.”
GPS-based gadget maker Garmin too confirmed its collaboration with Qualcomm to provide users with support for emergency messaging.
“Garmin welcomes the opportunity to expand our proven satellite emergency response services to millions of new smartphone users globally,” said Brad Trenkle, Vice President of Garmin’s outdoor segment.
“Garmin Response supports thousands of SOS incidents each year and has likely saved many lives in the process, and we are looking forward to collaborating with Qualcomm Technologies and Iridium to help people connect to emergency services no matter where life takes them.”
While Apple offers its Satellite SOS service for free for two years after users activate their iPhone 14 models, Qualcomm did not specify how much it will cost to use their satellite services when available later this year.