Advanced Television

Qualcomm pulls plug on Iridium link

November 13, 2023

By Chris Forrester

Satellite operator Iridium says that chip-set giant Qualcomm has ended its relationship with Iridium. Qualcomm and Iridium were in an agreement to include satellite-to-cellular chipsets in smartphones.

Iridium said that, while “the companies successfully developed and demonstrated the technology,” smartphone makers “have not included the technology in their devices,” leading Qualcomm to end the agreement.

The move is something of a surprise given the seemingly enthusiastic move towards ‘direct-to-cell’ connectivity from the likes of Apple (with Globalstar) and SpaceX’s Starlink (with T-Mobile and others) pursue the nascent market to connect unmodified phones directly to satellites.

While early satellite services are for emergency SOS Texts and SMS messages the end game is for full voice and data communications.

However, there are also some doubts as to whether the world needs such widespread connectivity.

Qualcomm said in its statement smartphone makers have “indicated a preference towards standards-based solutions” for satellite-to-phone connectivity. “We expect to continue to collaborate with Iridium on standards-based solutions while discontinuing efforts on the proprietary solution that was introduced earlier this year,” the company said.

Iridium noted in its own release that the end of its agreement with Qualcomm now allows it to re-engage with others who are working on satellite-to-cell projects. Iridium said the end of the agreements does not affect its full-year 2023 financial guidance.

“While I’m disappointed that this partnership didn’t bear immediate fruit, we believe the direction of the industry is clear toward increased satellite connectivity in consumer devices,” commented Iridium CEO Matt Desch.

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