Qualcomm unveils Snapdragon Satellite for two-way messaging


Tech firm teams with Iridium and Garmin for its plans to provide satellite network connectivity and emergency messaging for smartphones and other devices.

3D rendering of a satellite orbiting the earth with illuminated cities at night
Image: Jose Luis Stephens/Adobe Stock

The global need for enhanced mobile connectivity is on a steady rise, and these demands are peaking, exerting too much pressure on cellular broadband networks. This situation is already pushing more smartphone and critical equipment manufacturers to feature phone-satellite connectivity. As a result, the mobile satellite phone market is not slowing down in its expansion.

Barely a week into the new year, we are already witnessing a significant entrant into the mobile satellite communication market in Qualcomm. The U.S.-based wireless tech maker has hit the ground running already with a deal that will see it collaborate with Iridium and Garmin.

At the Consumer Electronic Show, Qualcomm announced that it has agreed with Iridium, a satellite communication company, to launch Snapdragon Satellite — a satellite-based two-way capable messaging solution for premium smartphones, such as Android. Also playing a part in the deal is Garmin, a technology company delivering GPS-enabled technology across different markets, including aviation, marine, sports and fitness, and automotive.

Snapdragon Satellite is billed to deliver global coverage and support two-way messaging for emergencies, SMS texting and other messaging applications. Other purposes for which the Snapdragon Satellite is expected to serve include emergencies or recreation in remote, rural and offshore locations. Although the satellite solution will kick off with devices running on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform, its services will extend to other devices needing global messaging capabilities.

What the Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Satellite is about

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Satellite is powered by Snapdragon 5G Modem-RF Systems and supported by Iridium’s 66 satellite constellations. The Snapdragon Satellite will enable original equipment manufacturers and other service providers to provide global coverage.

While the Snapdragon Satellite solution for smartphones will utilize Iridium’s weather-resilient Lband spectrum for uplink and downlink, it will also depend on Garmin’s emergency response solutions for emergency messaging.

What this means is that more phones will connect to satellites this year. While this announcement may sound like the safety service Emergency SOS already featured on Apple’s iPhone 14, which runs on a satellite connection, there is a notable shift here. Unlike Apple, which supports satellite services only during emergencies, smartphones connected to the Snapdragon Satellite solution will be able to exchange text messages with anyone, not just during emergencies.

SEE: How to get help with Emergency SOS on an iPhone 14 (TechRepublic)

In addition, ensuring quality connectivity for premium smartphones and other devices, including laptops, tablets, vehicles and Internet of Things, is one of the main objectives of the Snapdragon Satellite.

“Robust and reliable connectivity is at the heart of premium experiences,” said Durga Malladi, senior vice president and general manager of cellular modems and infrastructure at Qualcomm Technologies. “Snapdragon Satellite showcases our history of leadership in enabling global satellite communications and our ability to bring superior innovations to mobile devices at scale.”

Giving more details on the capacity in which Iridium will support the Qualcomm Snapdragon Satellite solution, Iridium CEO Matt Desch stated, “Our network is tailored for this service. LEO satellites cover every part of the globe and support the lower-power, low-latency connections ideal for the satellite-powered services enabled by Snapdragon Satellite.”

How will Snapdragon Satellite fare in the global mobile satellite phone market?

Over the past few years, the global satellite market has enjoyed a steady boom. Research Dive reports that the global mobile satellite phone market will surpass $5.26 billion by 2027, registering a compound annual growth rate of 4.0% within the forecast period.

The growth drivers highlighted by the report include the increasing demand for mobile satellite phones in emergencies like natural or man-made disasters, defense operations for communicating with teams during emergency situations, and the rising technological developments such as the launch of smart satellite phones. Some of the key players mentioned in the report are AT&T, EchoStar, Intelsat and Inmarsat.

Although various reports prove that the future of the global mobile satellite communication market is bright, there is no telling how Qualcomm would fare amidst other major players. For instance, a partnership between T-Mobile and Elon Musk’s SpaceX is expected to run at full gear this year. With AT&T announcing late last year that it has what it takes to beat T-Mobile and Elon Musk’s SpaceX satellite service, Qualcomm may need to go the extra mile to mount real pressure on these giant competitors.

Although with the key players more focused on providing emergency satellite communications services for industries like aviation, geospace, military and defense, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Satellite could have a say with a different market focus. Qualcomm’s focus on supporting satellite-based connectivity for the premium smartphone market in and out of emergencies — devices that need messaging capabilities and original equipment manufacturers — could prove enough to bring real change to the market.

Also at this week’s CES, Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon Ride Flex system-on-chip, which is engineered to support mixed-critical workloads across mixed compute resources.


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