Qualcomm to Roll Out Satellite Connectivity for Android Devices Later This Year

Photo of the Snapdragon Satellite test rig

How to tell Snapdragon Satellite to find satellites.

Qualcomm is working with satellite network provider Iridium to bring satellite connectivity to future Android devices. This technology only allows two-way messaging. But Qualcomm already uses Iridium’s satellite network, so it also has Garmin’s response service on board for emergencies.

Unlike Apple’s emergency SOS via satellite, Qualcomm’s emergency SOS isn’t completely finished. The company took us to the middle of the Nevada desert to see it in action, but only through an inexplicable test device. Either way, the announcement is good news for his Android platform. The Android platform currently does not offer satellite connectivity, even in emergencies.

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Photo of the Snapdragon Satellite test rig

Photo of the Snapdragon Satellite test rig

Snapdragon satellite test device.

The Snapdragon Satellite promises to provide “truly global coverage” from pole to pole, just as Iridium’s satellites already operate around the world. Smartphones can connect anywhere there is an Iridium branded satellite, if permitted by the local jurisdiction. Iridium uses low earth orbit (LEO) satellites, and the company says it currently has about 66 satellites available, with at least nine on standby as backups.

Snapdragon Satellite’s messaging capabilities are basic. You can send texts of up to 140 characters via SMS or another supported OTT (Over-the-Top) messaging app such as WhatsApp. Qualcomm showed what the Snapdragon Satellite app might look like with options for contacting emergency services and sending messages to a whitelist of contacts. Boarding is handled by Android OEMs who plan to implement features. Both companies use custom Android skins, so Samsung and OnePlus devices may look different.

Photo of the Snapdragon Satellite test rig

Photo of the Snapdragon Satellite test rig

The Snapdragon Satellite app looks like this in testing, but it’s up to the OEM to skin it as they see fit.

However, the emergency functionality should remain the same across the board. If you try to dial 9-1-1 and don’t have a cellular connection, the Snapdragon Satellite app will show you how to get help. Again, Qualcomm was unable to indicate how Garmin would handle emergency response. But it seems to work similarly to how iOS handles routing emergency SOS via satellite.

A smartphone with Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 will have to have the required RF bands, but it will be the first smartphone to work with Snapdragon Satellite. Iridium relies on a specific L-band spectrum (1600-1626.5 MHz) for uplink and downlink. Francesco Gatta, Qualcomm’s senior director of technology, said the feature is unlikely to appear in products arriving in the first half of this year. “We have announced this partnership. Multiple of his OEMs are already working on the device and it should be available in the second half of this year.”

Photo of the Snapdragon Satellite test rig

Photo of the Snapdragon Satellite test rig

A Qualcomm spokesperson tells us what to look for when sending text messages via satellite.

Ultimately, Qualcomm hopes the Snapdragon Satellite will be built into cars and other connected devices such as IoT. But for now, the company is focused on getting it on his Android first. Satellite connectivity has become quite the buzzword ever since Apple really showed its capabilities. And since Apple relies on call centers for emergency routing, it’s a bit limited in range, but at least it’s live and ready to use for iPhone 14+ users.

Snapdragon Satellite is not available on Google’s Pixel phones. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 use Google’s in-house Tensor chip, so it’s entirely dependent on whether the company includes it in its next-generation processors. There have been reports of a Snapdragon Satellite being released later this year.

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