Qualcomm today announced plans to bring satellite-based connectivity to next-generation Android smartphones, providing smartphone makers like Samsung and Google with a way to compete with Apple and iPhone 14 models for SOS emergency distress via satellite capabilities.
Snapdragon Satellite is a satellite-based, two-way messaging solution from satellite company Iridium, Snapdragon Satellite provides truly global coverage from the South Pole to the North Pole. Qualcomm said support for messaging using satellite connectivity will be built into the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 mobile platform, and smartphones using the technology will be available in the second half of 2023.
Qualcomm said the Snapdragon Satellite feature will first be used for emergency messaging, similar to the satellite emergency distress feature offered by Apple through its partnership with Globalstar. Qualcomm also mentioned SMS messaging and connectivity in remote, rural and offshore locations as possible use cases for Snapdragon Satellite, suggesting it may not be limited to emergency use in the future.
Snapdragon Satellite will be available first in smartphones, Qualcomm says it could also be used in laptops, tablets, cars and IoT devices, with OEMs and app developers able to differentiate and offer uniquely branded services using satellite connectivity.
Snapdragon Satellite will use the Iridium satellite constellation, which uses an L-band spectrum that Iridium says is “more weather-adapted” than the frequencies used by other networks. Android smartphones with Snapdragon Satellite still need a clear view of the sky to work properly and can send messages in as little as 10 seconds with a stable connection. Snapdragon Satellite is also planned to support 5G non-terrestrial networks (NTN) when the NTN satellite infrastructure and satellite constellation system are ready.
In addition to its partnership with Iridium, Qualcomm also plans to work with Garmin to provide emergency response services to users. No information is available on how Iridium, Qualcomm and the Android smartphone maker plan to charge customers for satellite access.