I reported, a couple days ago, that the upcoming iPhone 13 would likely feature low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communication connectivity—according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. However, it seems as though that might not be the case, as commentators took to Twitter to question the reports.
Previously, Kuo stated that a LEO satellite connection feature would “allow its users to make calls and send messages in areas without 4G or 5G coverage”. It would be something very useful especially for users in underserved and vulnerable regions.
Kuo also reported that the iPhone 13 lineup will feature a customised Qualcomm X60 baseband chip that supports satellite communications. However, mobile and 5G specialist Sacha Segan said that there were problems with the initial report.
“Qualcomm’s X65 modem supports B53/N53 but the X60 does not. However, the Qualcomm modem in the iPhones may be an… erm, X60-and-a-half. In other words, it could be an X60 + B53/N53. This does not imply talking to satellites,” tweeted Segan.
The B53/N53 radio spectrum is not used for satellite communications. In fact, satellite phones don’t use this frequency band at all. The source of the apparent confusion may be that Globalstar does own a part of this spectrum, but it falls within the 2.4GHz zone—a ground-based LTE band.
“But … you take b53/n53 connectivity, it becomes “iPhone has Globalstar” which becomes “iPhone has satellites” and here we are. New ground-based LTE/LAA band. Not satellites,” continued Segan.
Bloomberg also reported that the next iPhone “could have the hardware needed for satellite communications”, but those features “are unlikely to be ready before next year”. However, they reported that Apple is developing “at least two related emergency features that will rely on satellite networks”, one dubbed Emergency Message via Satellite. The feature would let users text emergency services and contacts over a satellite network when there’s no cell signal available.
Apple plans to debut the iPhone 13 line on the third week of September. While the LEO satellite feature might not be a thing yet, there are claims that there will be a 1TB option in the Pro models, which is double the biggest phone storage Apple has right now.