Apple's 'iPhone 13' won't support satellite communications, mobile analysts say

Posted:
in iPhone edited August 2021
Mobile analysts are disputing rumors that Apple's "iPhone 13" could support direct satellite communication, claiming a custom chip would instead improve existing 5G connectivity.

Credit: Andrew O'Hara, AppleInsider
Credit: Andrew O'Hara, AppleInsider


In a recent research note, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo forecast that the "iPhone 13" lineup could come equipped with a customized Qualcomm chip that could allow for "low-earth orbit satellite communications." Kuo appears to base his prediction on Qualcomm's work with Globalstar, a satellite company.

However, some mobile analysts and communication experts are disputing the theory that the "iPhone 13" could feature satellite communications for use when Wi-Fi or cellular service isn't available.

PCMag analyst Sascha Segan, for example, specifically says that the new Qualcomm chip -- made in partnership with satellite company Globalstar -- does not mean that the next iPhone will be able to communicate with satellites.

Instead, the Qualcomm and Globalstar chip will be able to take advantage of satellite bands that were previously assigned to satellite service. Put simply, the new custom chip may allow for the "iPhone 13" to have improved 5G connectivity because of additional bands.

But ... you take b53/n53 connectivity, it becomes "iPhone has Globalstar" which becomes "iPhone has satellites" and here we are. New ground-based LTE/LAA band. Not satellites. @TechmemeChatter

-- Sascha Segan (@saschasegan)


Cybersecurity expert Robert Graham also pointed out "iPhone 13" models could use the 2.4835 GHz to 2.4950 GHz band, which is the "upper half" of Wi-Fi's channel 14. Most countries don't use that band for Wi-Fi -- it's typically assigned to GlobalStar for downlink satellite communications.

Because it's a downlink channel, it wouldn't support smartphone-to-satellite communication. The spectrum is also only approved for terrestrial use, further making rumors of satellite communication less likely.

Graham said GlobalStar spent $5 billion to deploy satellites and purchase spectrum, but subsequently went bankrupt. The company's new strategy, he added, is to deploy the valuable spectrum for private network and cellular use.

Additionally, finance expert Anpanman notes that current carriers aren't likely to let "someone else eat off their plate," referring to the fact that the technology that would bypass the telecom companies.

8/ ... 3) Wireless carriers own the subscriber today and WON'T be letting someone else eat off their plate. You can get designed into new chipset... doesn't mean anyone will light up your spectrum. Also, $GSAT has been very clear on terrestrial use: https://t.co/FGFpH7zxWA

-- Anpnman (@spacanpanman)


The full Twitter threads from the analysts feature additional technical details and are well worth a read for anyone interested in the iPhone satellite rumors.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 8
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,952member
    That's a bummer, as that would be a 'killer' feature (or better a life-saving one). A lot of places we've lived here in Canada can easily become no cell signal within a 20 minute drive. I'd think it would be hard to put in a phone, though. Wouldn't you need some special equipment and quite a bit of power?
  • Reply 2 of 8
    baconstangbaconstang Posts: 1,114member
    So , I guess no 'Space Laser' support either?
  • Reply 3 of 8
    Samsung or a high end Chinese smartphone would have to release this feature in order for Apple include this feature!
  • Reply 4 of 8
    JFC_PAJFC_PA Posts: 934member
    cgWerks said:
    That's a bummer, as that would be a 'killer' feature (or better a life-saving one). A lot of places we've lived here in Canada can easily become no cell signal within a 20 minute drive. I'd think it would be hard to put in a phone, though. Wouldn't you need some special equipment and quite a bit of power?
    The Garmin InReach series aren’t very large, and the power for a simple emergency beacon function would likely be available. 
    cgWerks
  • Reply 5 of 8
    So , I guess no 'Space Laser' support either?
    That project was shelved after consumer research showed little interest in a laser permanently set to "stun"
  • Reply 6 of 8
    I guess I shouldn't be surprised after all these years but the desperation some of these "analysts" display is still shocking. First they were castigating Apple for not having 5G capability, now they're trying to claim that a rumoured (rumoured!!!) chipset is going to be in the device and Apple could therefore enable satellite communications??? How far removed from reality do you have to be to dream up such nonsense?

    No doubt they'll turn around after the product release and claim that Apple "has" the capability but turned it off in software because <insert crackpot theory here>.
  • Reply 7 of 8
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,347member
    Ming-Chi Kuo has staked his fading reputation on the iPhone 13 having satellite ability, so we'll see. He's missed quite a few lately ...
  • Reply 8 of 8
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,952member
    JFC_PA said:
    The Garmin InReach series aren’t very large, and the power for a simple emergency beacon function would likely be available. 
    Yeah, I guess that's not a whole lot bigger, but pretty much all of it is probably devoted to that single task. Maybe it will become possible for low-orbit and small data bursts. My hunch is that anything more is going to get stopped by physics.
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