Apple Locked Down 85% of Globalstar’s Network Capacity for Emergency SOS via Satellite: Report
According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Apple has secured 85% of satellite communications company Globalstar’s network capacity to launch its recently announced Emergency SOS via Satellite feature.
This year’s iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro are the first to feature Apple’s long-rumoured Emergency SOS via Satellite functionality, which lets users send emergency texts and relay critical information like location data even when there are no cell towers around.
Industry sources told the publication that Apple started approaching satellite companies for the project as early as 2019. Where Apple goes, others follow — and Apple’s inclusion of satellite connectivity on iPhone 14 has kicked off a “smartphone space race.”
Google executive Hiroshi Lockheimer said earlier this month that the company is working on supporting satellite connectivity on the next version of Android. In addition, Chinese smartphone maker Huawei announced satellite-capable Mate 50 smartphones hours before Apple unveiled the iPhone 14 series.
Satellite operator Iridium Communications, meanwhile, said in July that it had been contracted to develop its technology for use in smartphones. According to a securities filing, the agreement included provisions to recout earlier from “commercializing a similar capability with another party.” However, Iridium did not say who this new business partner is.
Elon Musk-owned SpaceX is one of the hottest names in satellite tech right now thanks to its Starlink internet service. The company last month announced a partnership with T-Mobile to launch a satellite-powered global cellphone service next year.
Musk said on Twitter last week that his company has even been in talks with Apple for something to do with iPhones and Starlink connectivity. Musk did not reveal exactly what the “promising conversations” were about or if they led anywhere, though.
We’ve had some promising conversations with Apple about Starlink connectivity. iPhone team is obv super smart.
For sure, closing link from space to phone will work best if phone software & hardware adapt to space-based signals vs Starlink purely emulating cell tower.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 8, 2022
Right now, satellites in orbit around the planet are only good for bridging connectivity gaps in areas poorly served by terrestrial cellular networks. It can take several minutes to send a single text via satellite, as Apple explained last week.
However, with enough improvements, satellite communications tech could one day get to the point where you could get a reliable and viable internet connection beamed to your phone from outer space. SpaceX will supposedly let customers use messaging apps in addition to sending and receiving regular text messages, so those advancements may not be as far off as one would think.
Apple’s Emergency SOS via Satellite feature is slated to launch in November. It will be available in the U.S. and Canada at launch, and it will be free for two years on every compatible product. There is no word yet on when (or if) Apple plans to expand satellite coverage to other countries.
Apple launched iPhone 14 pre-orders in Canada on Friday, and you can order yours today on Apple.ca.