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Qualcomm working with Starlink to enable mobile satellite services

Qualcomm Inc, the world’s leading smartphone chip manufacturer, is in discussions with major satellite companies, including Elon Musk’s Starlink, to explore the possibility of integrating mobile satellite services into future Android devices. The objective is to enable fast wireless broadband connectivity to people living in areas with limited terrestrial network coverage.

The focus is on developing technology solutions like narrow-band non-terrestrial networks (NTN) that would allow mobile devices to communicate with satellite systems. By incorporating a satellite-based approach, mobile phones can offer connectivity similar to 4G, but without relying solely on traditional base stations. This collaboration between Qualcomm and companies like Starlink aims to bridge the connectivity gap for individuals outside the range of terrestrial networks.

Chris Patrick, the general manager of mobile handsets at Qualcomm Technologies Inc, shared insights on their progress. He mentioned that integrating satellite services through NTN would require specific chipset and software modifications within mobile phones. The goal is to seamlessly combine satellite constellations with existing cellular infrastructure.

However, Patrick acknowledged that there is still much work to be done to fine-tune these systems. The performance and functionality of satellite-enabled mobile devices need further development before they can become a practical reality.

These discussions come at a time when India is assessing proposals from broadband space players such as Jio Satellite Communications and OneWeb, both of which already possess GMPCS licenses for mobile satellite services. Starlink has submitted an application for the same permit. Although the government has not yet activated these licenses due to the lack of an established device ecosystem and live demonstrations, the potential for mobile satellite services is promising.

Patrick emphasized that the extent of hardware and software modifications required in future smartphones will influence the pricing of mobile satellite-enabled handsets. Since the establishment and maintenance of a global satellite system involve significant investments, satellite service providers will likely form business arrangements with end-users. This would impact both the pricing of devices and the development of the ecosystem to support mobile satellite services.

As Qualcomm continues its research and development efforts, collaboration with satellite companies marks a significant step forward in providing enhanced connectivity options for users beyond the limitations of terrestrial networks. TS2

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