Satellite communication is coming to a device near you.
Have you ever noticed that anytime you are in an area with lousy cellphone service, that’s generally the time you need it the most? Most cities and urban areas have extremely reliable cellular networks, but if you get a flat tire in a mountain range, who are you going to call? No one, your cell won’t work.
Today (with the exception of the iPhone 14 emergency services) cellular phones connect to several cell towers or base stations on Earth. By connecting to multiple towers simultaneously, the user receives constant coverage as they move around. The caveat is that the system requires a terrestrial connection for it to work. The moment one is out of range of these towers, there goes the network.
The Future of Satellite and Cell Phones
On January 5, 2023, Iridium Communications Inc. announced that they entered into an agreement with Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. to enable satellite messaging and emergency services in smartphones powered by Snapdragon® Mobile Platforms. By collaborating with Qualcomm, Iridium opens the door to satellite service adoption with many smartphone brands instead of limiting options with one OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer).
Today, satellite phones are out there, but they are big and bulky with an inconvenient antenna. The new devices will have an antenna built-in, just like every other phone. Also, unlike satellite phones, there will be a regular two-way messaging system that will be accessible through an app. The initial rollout will consist of higher-end devices, but the intention is to expand into more mainstream phones and other consumer electronics.
The Iridium satellite constellation has 75 satellites, 66 of which are operational and 9 are in-orbit spares. They are cross-linked at 780 kilometers above Earth. It is the largest constellation and orbits closer to our planet compared to other systems. As a result, those leveraging the Iridium constellation can call, text, and use data anywhere in the world with low latency. It is the largest commercial satellite network in the world and the only one that offers 100% global coverage. This also makes it easier to maintain a reliable connection while moving around.
The Advantage of Satellites
Needless to say, if you are not relying on an earthly connection, the sky is the limit. Satellites deliver a signal outside of a cellular network. As long as your phone has access to the sky, a grounded physical infrastructure becomes moot. If you are on a ziplining adventure vacation, you’re good. If you are on a deep spelunking expedition, you’re on your own 😥. (For now…) For questions on automating test for your Iridium-driven device, please contact Averna.
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