Android one-ups Apple’s satellite SOS with general-purpose satellite SMS


Hey, Android customers! Are you jealous of the iPhone 14’s capacity to connect with satellites? Effectively, it has been a couple of months, and Qualcomm is already getting an analogous characteristic up and working on Android. Meet “Snapdragon Satellite tv for pc” a approach to ship satellite tv for pc messages from a normal-sized Android telephone. Not like on the iPhone, that is actual, two-way, SMS-style texting that you’re going to supposedly have the ability to use for extra informal conversations as an alternative of the iPhone’s extremely compressed, emergency-only, one-way questionnaire system that daunts composing a message.

Qualcomm’s resolution will run on the Iridium satellite tv for pc constellation—that is the 25-year-old, 66-satellite community that powers conventional, purpose-built satellite tv for pc telephones with big exterior antennas. Qualcomm says that is now going to work with normal-sized smartphones and with regular, internal-only antennas. Qualcomm’s VP of Product Administration, Francesco Grilli, gave an enormous overview of the service and says “generally” you will not even want a brand new antenna. Iridium runs within the 1-2 GHz L Band, the identical as GPS and a few mid-band mobile service, so your telephone already has an antenna for this.

That is to not say it can work with none new {hardware}, however Qualcomm will construct it into its customary RF loadout with out requiring any main new elements. This can be a nice state of affairs in comparison with mmWave 5G, which added an enormous, further, costly antenna to your telephone that only a few individuals can use.

You might have to hold up your phone, but you'll get normal, two-way SMS over a special app.

Enlarge / You may need to carry up your telephone, however you may get regular, two-way SMS over a particular app.


Similar to with the iPhone, skipping out on the conventional large, exterior antenna means coping with a selected set of compromises. Not like an always-on mobile connection, you may hearth up some focusing on app and is perhaps requested to level your telephone at a location within the sky and look ahead to a connection. Voice calls, that are potential on Iridium with a conventional satellite tv for pc telephone, are out, and that is data-only. The connection makes use of the Iridium protocol, similar to an actual satellite tv for pc telephone. Grilli describes the communication as “nearer to 2G [GSM or EDGE] than to 5G.” It is an old-school TDMA (time-division a number of entry) setup, the place anybody person speaking to a selected antenna will monopolize that connection spectrum, and everybody else has to attend. (Be mindful this “ready” is an order of milliseconds, and satellites have a number of antennas.) FDMA (frequency division a number of entry) is how all of your different telephone wi-fi applied sciences work. FDMA permits for higher-bandwidth and a number of simultaneous customers, however that is tough if you’re speaking about outer area communications.

This is what a normal Iridium phone looks like, but we're going to make do without the bulky antenna.

Enlarge / That is what a standard Iridium telephone appears to be like like, however we’ll make do with out the cumbersome antenna.


Qualcomm’s efficiency guarantees right here appear good in comparison with Apple’s resolution. Grilli says you can ship a “full-size SMS in lower than 10 seconds, and on common, it takes three seconds.” That is sooner than the iPhone’s 15 seconds for an emergency SOS, which is a extremely compressed questionnaire message and never a full SMS. The iPhone is on a distinct Globalstar constellation with completely different traits. That Globalstar constellation has solely 24 satellites protecting the world, which isn’t adequate for steady 24/7 protection. These satellites are shifting round, so there is a common up-and-down cadence to the Globalstar service that lasts for minutes at a time for any given location. With 66 satellites within the Iridium constellation, you need to at all times have service, and also you may not even want to do this “maintain your telephone up” dance to get a connection.

Presumably, you may need to pay somebody to entry the satellite tv for pc community. Qualcomm is a chip supplier and did not need to get into ISP or messaging app particulars. Texts to 911 (or your native equal) will probably be free, with none form of plan, similar to how mobile works (this can be a legislation). In case you’re paying for a premium plan, Qualcomm’s proprietary setup permits for no matter messaging customary you need to use, both bog-standard SMS along with your regular telephone quantity or some over-the-top service (i.e., WhatsApp), however operators might want to determine that out. Some current customary can be nice since just one individual would wish to pay for the satellite tv for pc service and will discuss to the surface world.

Qualcomm says the service will probably be obtainable in telephones within the second half of the 12 months for telephones launched in North America and Europe. {Hardware} help technically begins within the Qualcomm Snapdragon Gen 2 SoC, which already has a couple of introduced gadgets, but it surely feels like satellite tv for pc compatibility will probably be an add-on characteristic producers must plan for. The corporate says a number of companions are already engaged on designs. Whereas the characteristic is unique to flagship gadgets, for now, Qualcomm says new, cheaper chips may also incorporate the characteristic, relying on what the client reception is like. It is also involved in bringing the characteristic to vehicles.

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