Qualcomm enters space race with Snapdragon Satellite

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After making two key additions to its portfolio of connected vehicle platforms at CES 2023, Qualcomm Technologies is now going from the road to the skies, after entering into an agreement with Iridium to launch what it called the world’s first satellite-based two-way capable messaging offering, bringing satellite-based connectivity to next-generation premium smartphones.

The Snapdragon Satellite is designed to provide global connectivity using mobile messaging from around the world, starting with devices based on the flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform.

Powered by Snapdragon 5G Modem-RF Systems and supported by the fully operational Iridium satellite constellation, Snapdragon Satellite is said to be able to allow original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and other service providers to offer global coverage. The offering for smartphones uses Iridium’s weather-resilient L-band spectrum for uplink and downlink, while emergency messaging on Snapdragon Satellite is planned to be available on next-generation smartphones, launched in select regions starting in the second half of 2023.

“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.

“Kicking off in premium smartphones later this year, this new addition to our Snapdragon platform strongly positions us to enable satellite communication capabilities and service offerings across multiple device categories.”

Iridium CEO Matt Desch said: “Iridium is proud to be the satellite network that supports Snapdragon Satellite for premium smartphones.

“Our network is tailored for this service – our advanced, LEO satellites cover every part of the globe and support the lower-power, low-latency connections ideal for the satellite-powered services enabled by the industry-leading Snapdragon Satellite,” he said. “Millions depend on our connections every day, and we look forward to the many millions more connecting through smartphones powered by Snapdragon Satellite.”

Beyond smartphones, Snapdragon Satellite can expand to other devices, including laptops, tablets, vehicles and internet of things (IoT) devices.

Qualcomm added that as the Snapdragon Satellite ecosystem grows, OEMs and app developers can differentiate and offer unique branded services taking advantage of satellite connectivity.

Snapdragon Satellite is also planned to support 5G Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN) as NTN satellite infrastructure and constellations become available.

GPS-based device provider Garmin has been revealed as one of the first partners for Snapdragon Satellite, and said it looks forward to collaborating with support for emergency messaging.

“Garmin welcomes the opportunity to expand our proven satellite emergency response services to millions of new smartphone users globally,” said Brad Trenkle, vice-president of its outdoor segment.

“Garmin Response supports thousands of SOS incidents each year and has likely saved many lives in the process, and we are looking forward to collaborating with Qualcomm Technologies and Iridium to help people connect to emergency services no matter where life takes them.”

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