Qualcomm ended its partnership with Iridium to provide satellite-to-phone services

At CES 2023, Qualcomm announced the launch of Snapdragon Satellite, a groundbreaking service enabling two-way satellite communication, designed to augment flagship smartphones and various other types of devices. Qualcomm initially plans to integrate this service into mobile devices powered by the second-generation Snapdragon 8 platform, to eventually expand it across the entire Snapdragon chipset lineup, from the 4 series to the 8 series, and potentially even beyond smartphones. Qualcomm, in collaboration with Iridium Communications, aims to provide satellite-based connectivity for next-generation Android flagship smartphones. Additionally, the company plans to partner with Garmin to support emergency messaging services.

However, as reported by CNBC, less than a year into their collaboration, Iridium Communications has announced the termination of its partnership with Qualcomm. Despite successfully developing and demonstrating the technology, Iridium cited the lack of integration of this technology into devices by smartphone manufacturers as the reason for discontinuing the agreement.

Iridium Communications asserts that integrating satellite communication into consumer devices is a clear direction for the industry, with the only question being how to implement it. The company is currently engaging with several other firms, striving to ensure that satellite communication eventually becomes a standard feature in the future.

According to Qualcomm’s previous statements, Snapdragon Satellite, supported by Qualcomm’s 5G modem and RF system and Iridium’s satellite network, was expected to offer OEM manufacturers and other service providers true global coverage. Qualcomm’s solution for smartphones was planned to use the L-band spectrum provided by Iridium for both uplink and downlink connections, with the initial launch of related services in select regions slated for the second half of 2023.

Nonetheless, this development represents a significant setback for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Satellite project, raising questions about its future direction. This is particularly concerning given that competitors’ similar products have already launched, while Android smartphones equipped with the Snapdragon platform may face an extended wait.