Qualcomm has shut down its Snapdragon Satellite connectivity technology
Satellite connectivity is one of the most promising advances in recent history. The feature enables users to connect with others without the need for a SIM card or network coverage. It uses satellites to relay communications, making it especially useful for outdoor hiking expeditions.
Unfortunately, technology appears to have come much too early for its good. Though the capability is still available on iOS, Qualcomm is discontinuing its version of the technology.
Qualcomm “elected to terminate” their agreement on the feature, Iridium said last November 9, because no smartphone maker signed up to use it. The functionality has previously been “successfully developed and demonstrated,” according to Iridium. However, it appears that there was little interest.
Qualcomm told CNBC that it will continue to collaborate with Iridium on “standards-based solutions” for satellite communication while abandoning the “proprietary solution” they had previously built. This indicates that Qualcomm may still try to supply satellite communication features for Android phones in the future but given the initial lack of interest in this technology, it is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
Snapdragon Satellite was designed to compete with Apple’s Emergency SOS functionality, which debuted on the iPhone 14 in 2022. When iPhone users are out of range of typical cell service, the function, developed in collaboration with the satellite company Globalstar, allows them to alert emergency services or request roadside help via a satellite network.
The service is now free, but Apple plans to charge consumers for access to satellite communications beginning next year. The cost of the service has not been disclosed.
One of the reasons Snapdragon Satellite never took off is that it was too expensive. Someone has to pay Iridium to use its satellites, and this method would have put Qualcomm during those payments. Smartphone manufacturers may not have been thrilled with the prospect of providing a service that would eventually be handled by Qualcomm.
There is still a chance that Qualcomm will include a satellite communications feature in the future. The company is the leading provider of modem chips and antennas to the Android device ecosystem. If demand for satellite communication among mobile device makers develops significantly, Qualcomm will have a strong incentive to include the technology in its processors.