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Qualcomm teams with Iridium to enable the Snapdragon Satellite platform


Monday, January 9, 2023

Qualcomm's newest partnership and connectivity project is working with global communications company Iridium to enable the Snapdragon Satellite platform.

Snapdragon Satellite is a global two-way messaging system designed for high-end smartphones, enabling connectivity for SMS text and emergency messages from pole to pole. According to Qualcomm, it's the "first satellite-based solution capable of supporting two-way messaging for premium smartphones and beyond." Satellite communications have been in use for decades, but this will be among the first enabled on consumer smartphones.

Apple launched Emergency SOS via Satellite on the iPhone 14 family last year. Apple's service allows for limited two-way SMS communications in areas not covered by cellular or Wi-Fi networks. It's limited to the US and Canada, as well as the UK, Germany, France, and Ireland at the moment, though Apple plans to expand its service to more countries over time.

Qualcomm partnered with Iridium to use the company's constellation of 66 satellites, originally launched in 1997 and upgraded in 2019. Snapdragon Satellite will let compatible smartphones communicate with the constellation via Qualcomm's Snapdragon 5G Modem-RF system, using the L-band spectrum of 1GHz to 2.1GHz, which also lets GPS-equipped devices connect to BDS, Galileo, and Glonass satellites.

Iridium Satellite Constellation

Don't expect Snapdragon Satellite to be a competitor to Starlink, or even conventional cellular service. The global satellite coverage is currently focused on SMS and emergency messaging, enabling text communication across the planet. In its announcement, Qualcomm emphasized the system's value in ensuring emergency access for users who are too remote for conventional cellular coverage. The text-based limitations of Snapdragon Satellite might not be permanent, though, and Qualcomm plans to update the system to support 5G Non-Terrestrial Networks (for data) as those satellites are launched.

Snapdragon Satellite will work on devices that use the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, but this doesn't necessarily mean you can pick up any 2023 flagship phone and send texts over satellite. Because the system requires a different spectrum than 4G, 5G, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi use, phones will have to be manufactured with radios that can cover the L-band.

At the time of this writing, several phones with the 8 Gen 2 on board (e.g., OnePlus 11 5G) have been announced, but none are yet available. Currently, no consumer products have been announced for the platform yet, but both the service and phones that can use it are planned to launch in the second half of 2023.

By: DocMemory
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