When will smartphones get satellite communication capabilities?

When will smartphones get satellite communication capabilities?

One of the most exciting things Apple has done with the new iPhone 14 is to include satellite connectivity for emergency use in the US and Canada. While the audience for this type of messaging service may be small, serious adventurers who love remote outings and sailing enthusiasts who are often out of cellular, when sailing or boating, applauded the move. It is also valuable for emergency services and the military when communications are needed in areas where cellular calls are not available.

Within minutes of Apple announcing this new feature, I started seeing tweets and comments about the idea of ​​Apple eventually adding satellite calling features to the iPhone in the near future.

Standalone satellite phones have been available for decades but are always used in specialized conditions. For example, the US military has used satellite phones on the battlefield and in remote areas for decades.

As mentioned above, satellite phones have been used for communications on the high seas and within many types of emergency services where cellular communications are not available.

Dedicated satellite phones can cost as little as $500.00 to over $1,500, depending on the features. However, the most significant problem with satellite phones is the cost per minute. With cell phones, voice calls are cheap and unlimited in most carrier services. However, satellite phone calls can cost anywhere from $1.25 per minute to more than $10 per minute, depending on a person’s location.

The Wall Street Journal He recently wrote a story about it and took a skeptical look at being able to see satellite voice calls built into smartphones anytime soon.

“The stakes of such a bet are high for satellite projects that typically spend several billion dollars on each one just to launch their networks. And the potential rewards from accessing even a small slice of the world’s more than six billion smartphones are similarly rich, assuming companies are able to To make their services operate on a global scale.

Several other satellite companies are trying to grab a share of the cellular market. SpaceX, the rocket company, led by an entrepreneur Elon Muskin August she will join with T-Mobile United States To make its Starlink service compatible with the US mobile carrier’s network. The companies said they would begin testing the service before the end of 2023.

“Personally, I am a little skeptical,” says Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium, describing such seamless communications as “not a service that the public will see for at least a few years.” He says the most feasible target includes satellite-based text messaging that works just as well on a smartphone as it does on specialized satellite phones available today.”

When I considered the idea of ​​including satellite voice calling in a smartphone, it became clear that despite its capabilities, it’s not something we’ll see soon. Elon Musk wants to deliver it via a partnership with Starlink and TMobile by the end of 2023, but a lot needs to happen for this to be possible.

I was at an event recently where Umair JavedThe FCC Public Council spoke. I asked him what it would take to get satellite communications to smartphones. He replied that he would have to undergo FCC regulatory scrutiny and new spectrum assignments. He also noted that other countries have dedicated spectrum to voice satellite communications, and that development of cross-spectrum technology and partnerships around the world would be needed to deliver a global service.

I also spoke to an OEM that makes smartphones. They noted that adding the specialized radios and electronics needed to operate these satellite calls would add at least another $200 to $300 to the retail price of a satellite-enabled smartphone.

Mr. Javid of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said they see a huge business opportunity for satellite companies and smartphone makers to add satellite connectivity to smartphones at some point in the future.

Although the audience for these types of smartphones with satellite connectivity will be smaller, there will be many companies and even some consumers for whom satellite connectivity in a smartphone makes sense and is worth the extra cost. However, it will not be available for a mass market because worldwide cellular connections will be sufficient for most smartphone users.

It is possible that voice communication via satellite will be added to smartphones. However, don’t expect that anytime soon.

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