While Apple and Huawei may have their own satellite communications feature, Qualcomm wants to bring satellite messaging to more Android devices with its new Snapdragon Satellite solution. Besides sending an SOS during emergencies, Qualcomm wants to make satellite communications available for various purposes including normal recreational uses in remote, rural and offshore locations.
According to Qualcomm, they have entered an agreement with Iridium which has a fully operational constellation satellite network in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The satellite communications will be powered by Snapdragon 5G Modem-RF Systems and it is said to be rolled out first to premium flagship devices that run on Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile platform. The Emergency messaging on Snapdragon Satellite is planned to be offered on next-generation smartphones in select regions starting in the second half of 2023.
According to Iridium, their advanced LEO satellites cover every part of the globe and they support lower-power, low-latency connections that are ideal for satellite-powered devices that run on Snapdragon Satellite. Qualcomm said the Snapdragon Satellite isn’t just limited to smartphones as it can be expanded to other services and it is planned to support 5G Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN) when NTN satellite infrastructure and constellation become available.
Garmin also welcomes the announcement and the opportunity to expand its proven satellite emergency response service to million of new smartphone users globally. It added that Garmin Response supports thousands of SOS incidents each year and has likely saved many lives in the process. They are looking forward to collaborating with Qualcomm and Iridium to help people to connect to emergency services no matter where life takes them.
Unlike typical satellites that use Ka/Ku-Band, Iridium’s LEO network uses L-band frequencies which are said to be more resilient to weather. As a result, this provides more reliable communications even in adverse weather conditions in the air, sea or on the ground.
Samsung is expected to be one of the first smartphone makers to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Satellite solution as it has been reported that they are preparing a satellite feature that allows users to send text messages and low-resolution images via Iridium’s LEO satellites. However, such a feature would likely come with an extra cost to consumers.
Apple which offers satellite-based SOS messaging is currently offering the service for free for the first two years but it is only available in North America. Huawei’s Mate 50 Pro also supports satellite messaging using China’s BeiDou network which has a wide footprint in Asia but the feature is only offered in China.