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Satellite Communication Feature in Android and iPhones

A new agreement between satellite phone maker Iridium and a big name in phone chip making Qualcomm could open up a new world of connectivity for mobile phone users by allowing users of smartphones to use Satellite Communication Feature in Android devices.

As a result of this partnership between the two companies, the users of android phones will be able to send and receive messages by connecting their phones to satellites, in places where mobile phone signals are not available. However, this benefit will be available only to those users whose phones use Google’s Android operating system and which have a Qualcomm chip installed. This facility will initially be provided only for sending or receiving a basic message like a text message in case of emergency situations.

Before this development, the big giant Apple Company started the satellite emergency connectivity feature in their iPhone 14 series in the last quarter of 2022.

(Find below how emergency satellite service works on iPhone 14 or iPhone 14 Pro.

Satellite emergency SOS allows you to connect with emergency services in situations where other means of communication are not available. If you attempt to call or text emergency services and are unable to connect due to a lack of cellular and Wi-Fi coverage, your iPhone will try to connect you through satellite to get the necessary help.

Using a satellite connection is different from using a cellular, as the time it takes to send a message can vary depending on the conditions and your surroundings. In ideal conditions with a clear view of the sky, a message might take 15 seconds to send, but under trees with light or medium foliage, it might take over a minute to send. If you're surrounded by heavy foliage or other obstructions, you may not be able to connect to a satellite. The length of your message and the status and availability of the satellite network can also affect connection times.

The use of Emergency SOS via satellite is free for two years after the activation of the iPhone 14 or iPhone 14 Pro. Additionally, if the iPhone or Apple Watch detects a severe car crash or hard fall, and the user is unresponsive, an automatic crash detection or fall detection notification will be sent to emergency services via Emergency SOS via satellite if the user is outside of cellular and Wi-Fi coverage.)

But even before Apple, the British smartphone maker Bullitt successfully launched a satellite service. However, it has also announced it provides this facility only for emergency messaging in certain places.

Under the above-mentioned agreement between Iridium and Qualcomm, the same facility will be offered to millions of smartphone users who do not have a specific brand of phone, but the company that manufactures the phone will have to provide this feature respectively.

Iridium is the first company to make satellite phone systems, sending its first satellite into space back in 1997. As of 2019, Iridium had 75 satellites in the orbit. These satellites are positioned 780 km above the earth's surface and are capable of communicating with each other in order to transfer information.

Qualcomm has said that currently the satellite connectivity feature will only be available for the Premier chips and will not be available in low-end android smartphones.

However, later Satellite Communication Feature will be provided to tablets, laptops, and even vehicles, which will not be limited to emergencies only. It is likely that a fee will be charged for this service in the future.

Mobile phone connectivity through satellite is considered to be the next and future frontier of the world of communication which will solve a fundamental problem i.e. coverage, making communication possible even in areas where the signals of conventional cellular mobile phone operators are not available. In rural and remote areas the coverage problem becomes more complicated.

US billionaire Elon Musk's company Starlink is already working on providing wider coverage via low-orbit satellites.

Satellite broadband is known to be faster and more dependable than cable or fiber-optic connections, however, it also tends to be more costly.

There are many factors that will play role in the future of satellite communication via common smartphones and legislation is one of them because different countries have different laws for example, India and China have already banned the use of satellite phones. 

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