Qualcomm unveiled Snapdragon Satellite, a new project that would enable phones with Snapdragon chips to connect via satellite in places without a cell signal, at CES 2023 in January. However, the agreement between Qualcomm and Iridium, a satellite network provider, has broken down, making Snapdragon Satellite’s future unclear.
With the release of Emergency SOS on the iPhone 14 series in October 2022, Apple pioneered the widespread use of phone-to-satellite communications. A few months later, Qualcomm unveiled Snapdragon Satellite, a hardwired paid service that allows Android phones to use Iridium’s satellites for calls and texts outside of cell signal range. According to Qualcomm, phone manufacturers would have to incorporate the feature into their devices, but phones could begin shipping with it in the second half of 2023.
According to a press release from Iridium on Thursday, Qualcomm has terminated its agreement with the latter because, despite a successful demonstration of Snapdragon Satellite at CES, no phones have been released with it to date.
Iridium CEO Matt Desch stated in the press release, “We believe the direction of the industry is clear towards increased satellite connectivity in consumer devices, even though I’m disappointed that this partnership didn’t bear immediate fruit.” “We are ideally positioned to be a major player in this developing market thanks to our regulatory certainty and global coverage. Their success will be largely dependent on the user experience, and we have demonstrated our ability to offer mobile users a dependable, worldwide capability.”
Iridium stated that for “existing and future service plans” of satellite connectivity, it will keep pursuing collaborations with phone manufacturers and other players in the mobile industry.
In a statement, Qualcomm mentioned that smartphone makers preferred standards-based connectivity options over the proprietary Snapdragon Satellite chip-based solution. The company only stated that it will continue to work on satellite connectivity in devices; it did not specify whether Snapdragon Satellite was coming to an end or if it would continue with another partner.
A Qualcomm representative said in a statement, “We expect to continue working with Iridium on standards-based solutions while discontinuing efforts on the proprietary solution that was introduced earlier this year.” With the industrial-focused mobile modems it introduced in July, the company is still supporting non-terrestrial network (also known as satellite) solutions by connecting them to the Skylo constellation of satellites.
While Qualcomm was more subdued about Snapdragon Satellite, acknowledging that the initiative was in the hands of device manufacturers, last month’s Snapdragon Summit in Hawaii concentrated on new chips bringing on-device generative AI to phones and PCs.
According to Chris Patrick, senior vice president of engineering at Qualcomm, “Snapdragon Satellite is just a bigger commitment” than on-device AI, CNET was informed. “The barrier you need to cross as an end user, as a [original equipment manufacturer], as an infrastructure-providing ecosystem player, like Google for example, is just bigger.”
Regarding the future of Snapdragon Satellite in 2024, Patrick would only say that there has been “a lot of energy, a lot of discussion, a lot of good things happening.” He declined to comment further. We’ll watch and see.”
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