Qualcomm announces partnerships with Motorola, Nothing, HONOR, OPPO, vivo and Xiaomi for Snapdragon Satellite, a new service for two-way satellite communications.
While primarily intended for premium phones equipped with the Snapdragon 8 Gen chipset, satellite connectivity will also be present, with some limitations, on other mid-range models with Qualcomm’s 5G-compatible chipset.
Thus, on Snapdragon 8 Gen 2-based flagship models we will be able to send and receive SMS messages via satellite if connection to terrestrial mobile networks is not available. At a basic level, functionality will be limited to alerting emergency services and exchanging text messages with their operators.
Although Qualcomm chipsets are found on millions of Android phones, satellite connectivity was first announced by rival Apple as an exclusive for iPhone 14 owners. Meanwhile, Google, Samsung and Huawei have announced their own implementations of the service, added to selected models of Android phones.
Qualcom will provide the new Snapdragon Satellite service under a partnership with Iridium, the oldest satellite phone service provider, active since 1997. Unlike newer alternatives such as Starlink, Iridium’s network relies on just 75 satellites, but with much greater individual capacity than SpaceX’s micro-satellites. Refurbished in 2019 with state-of-the-art technology, they can take more phone calls simultaneously and deliver faster internet connections, but at costs that are generally too high for ordinary consumers. The advantage is that the network of satellites placed in relatively high orbit, about 780km above the Earth, offers greater coverage and less signal fluctuation than the Starlink network.
Beyond smartphones, it will also be available for other categories of computing devices, such as in-car devices and even IoT accessories.