At CES 2023 in January, Qualcomm revealed a brand new undertaking, Snapdragon Satellite, that will let telephones packing Snapdragon chips use satellites to hyperlink up in areas with out a cell sign. But now the deal is off between Qualcomm and satellite tv for pc community firm Iridium, leaving Snapdragon Satellite’s future unsure.
Apple was the primary to deploy large-scale phone-to-satellite communications with Emergency SOS, which debuted on the iPhone 14 sequence in October 2022. Qualcomm unveiled Snapdragon Satellite months later as a hardwired approach for Android telephones to make use of Iridium’s satellites for calls and texting past cell sign vary as a paid service. Qualcomm mentioned that telephones may begin popping out with the performance within the second half of 2023, although producers would have needed to implement it of their handsets.
Despite a profitable demonstration of Snapdragon Satellite at CES, thus far no telephones have launched with it, which is why Qualcomm has ended its take care of Iridium, in response to the latter’s press launch on Thursday.
“While I’m disenchanted that this partnership did not bear fast fruit, we consider the course of the business is evident towards elevated satellite tv for pc connectivity in shopper gadgets,” Iridium CEO Matt Desch mentioned within the press launch. “Our world protection and regulatory certainty make us effectively suited to be a key participant on this rising market. User expertise can be important to their success, and we have confirmed that we are able to present a dependable, world functionality to cell customers.”
Iridium famous that it’ll proceed to pursue partnerships with telephone producers and cell business gamers for “current and future service plans” of satellite tv for pc connectivity.
Qualcomm offered a press release that cited smartphone producers’ desire for standards-based connectivity choices, moderately than the chip-based Snapdragon Satellite proprietary answer. The firm did not say if Snapdragon Satellite was ending or if it could proceed with one other associate, solely that it’ll maintain engaged on satellite tv for pc connectivity in gadgets.
“We anticipate to proceed to collaborate with Iridium on standards-based options whereas discontinuing efforts on the proprietary answer that was launched earlier this yr,” a Qualcomm spokesperson mentioned in a press release. The firm continues to help non-terrestrial community (aka satellite tv for pc) options utilizing the industrial-focused cell modems it launched in July that hyperlink as much as the Skylo community of satellites.
Last month, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Summit in Hawaii centered on new chips bringing on-device generative AI to telephones and PCs, however the firm was extra muted about Snapdragon Satellite, acknowledging that the ball was in gadget producers’ court docket.
“Snapdragon Satellite is only a greater dedication” than on-device AI, Chris Patrick, Qualcomm senior vp of engineering, advised CNET. “The barrier you have to cross as an finish consumer, as an [original equipment manufacturer], as an infrastructure-providing ecosystem participant, like Google for instance, is simply greater.”
Patrick declined to particularly touch upon what’s in retailer for Snapdragon Satellite in 2024, solely noting that there was “quite a lot of vitality, quite a lot of dialogue, quite a lot of good issues taking place. We’ll see what occurs.”
Still ready for the yr of satellite tv for pc connectivity
This is the most recent setback in what appeared like a yr the place satellite tv for pc connectivity was set to develop telephone use past cell networks. All three main carriers within the US introduced their very own satellite tv for pc telephone options, however haven’t moved past tech demonstrations. T-Mobile partnered with SpaceX’s Starlink for satellite tv for pc service, however AT&T has tried to block that deployment for worry of the service encroaching by itself spectrum.
For its half, AT&T linked up with AST AreaMobile to develop its protection, however hasn’t introduced something extra in practically a yr. Likewise, Verizon revealed approach again in October 2021 that it could use Amazon’s Project Kuiper satellites for connectivity however hasn’t offered an replace since. (Amazon launched the primary satellites in Project Kuiper’s community final month.)
Today, Apple’s iPhones are the one handsets launched within the US which have satellite tv for pc connectivity. The final yr has been punctuated with tales of iPhone 14 homeowners who’ve used Emergency SOS to get assist after tumbling into canyons and to even escape the lethal Maui wildfires.