Emergency SOS: Apple iPhones to be able to send/receive texts via Globalstar LEO satellites in November
Apple finally confirmed a longstanding rumor that its new iPhones will be able to connect directly to LEO satellites to send and receive text messages. The feature, called Emergency SOS, will allow iPhone 14 models to message from remote locations not covered by traditional cellular infrastructure. Apple says the service launches in November and will be free to iPhone 14 buyers for two years. It didn’t specify what it might cost after that. Apple noted at Wednesday’s Cupertino, CA HQ event that its smartphone would need to be pointed directly at a satellite to work, and that even light foliage could make texts a few minutes to send.
Globalstar confirmed in a filing Wednesday that it will be operating the service through a partnership with Apple. Under that agreement, Apple will cover 95% of the capital expenditures made by Globalstar to build up its network, including new satellites, to provide the service. It will require Globalstar to allocate 85% of its “current and future network capacity” to support the service, which analyst Mike Crawford of B. Riley describes as “in one fell swoop converting an underutilized asset to a productive asset.”
The deal will include service fees and potential bonus payments, allowing Globalstar to project total revenue in a range of $185 million to $230 million for next year and $250 million to $310 million for 2026, which is expected to be the first full year that all of the company’s new satellites are operational. Even the low end of the near-term target would be a record high for the satellite-service provider, representing a gain of 44% above the annual revenue Globalstar has averaged for the past three years. Globalstar notably broke from the traditionally dry language of SEC filings to describe the deal as “transformational.”
Globalstar, currently offers SPOT X which provides 2-way satellite messaging so users can stay connected whenever you’re outside of cellular range, including direct communication with search & rescue services in case of a life-threatening emergency. SPOT X provides your own personal U.S. mobile number so others can message you directly from their mobile phone or SMS devices at any time.
Globalstar Satellite System:
Like “bent-pipes” or mirrors in the sky, the Globalstar satellites pick up signals from over 80% of the Earth’s surface. Our satellites transmit customer signals via CDMA technology to antennas at the appropriate terrestrial gateway, then the signals are routed through the local networks. This highly effective design offers the shortest connectivity latency and enables Globalstar to upgrade our system with the latest technology on the ground.
Globalstar’s new satellite constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites and second generation ground infrastructure deliver exceptional quality, reliable coverage and high quality service to its customers.
Image Credit: Globalstar
The company’s patented satellite path and gateway diversity technologies allow customers to stay connected in the event of a single satellite failure by automatically transmitting to the next available satellite. This ensures uninterrupted communication in even the most suboptimal conditions like mountainous areas or urban canyons.
There is increasing competition for LEO satellite based internet access from smartphones:
- Starlink/SpaceX, announced a deal last month with T-Mobile to launch a text-based service by the end of next year. The Apple-Globalstar service might have cooled some enthusiasm. It is designed for emergency texting only, as opposed to providing a more typical smartphone experience in the wild.
- In addition to T-Mobile’s venture with SpaceX, the Globalstar rival Iridium announced in July that it has entered a development agreement with an unnamed company for a smartphone service that it expects to complete by the end of the year. Ric Prentiss of Raymond James wrote Thursday that the total addressable market “for satellite-smartphone off-the-grid connectivity is quite large with room for several initiatives globally.”
Musk’s SpaceX and T-Mobile plan to connect mobile phones to LEO satellites in 2023
Qualcomm and Iridium launch Snapdragon Satellite for 2-Way Messaging on Android Premium Smartphones – Technology Blog (comsoc.org)
Greg Wyler- OneWeb Satellite-Internet CEO- Telecom Man of the Year + $500M more from Softbank
Greg Wyler, the entrepreneur and CEO of satellite internet company OneWeb, has won the Fierce Wireless “Most Powerful Person In Telecom” tournament for 2017, just edging past T-Mobile CEO John Legere during this weekend’s final matchup and beating other industry notables like Ericsson’s Borje Ekholm, Apple’s Tim Cook and Verizon’s Lowell McAdam.
This past Sunday afternoon, Legere urged his almost 5 million Twitter followers to vote for OneWeb’s Wyler instead of himself:
Join me in voting for Greg as the Most Powerful Person in Wireless! We have until tomorrow morning to put Greg_Wyler (and his mission) on top, where he belongs! #IvoteGreghttps://www.fiercewireless.com/wireless/john-legere-vs-greg-wyler-vote-for-most-powerful-person-u-s-telecom-industry-2017 …“This has been an amazing public statement about the need for global connectivity. Our mission is to enable affordable access for the world’s unconnected. While we still have a lot of work to do, with the support of partners, friends, governments, and customers, I know we will get there,” Wyler said in a statement issued shortly before voting ended on Tuesday morning.
OneWeb appears to have recently received another vote of confidence from Japan’s SoftBank. According to a Wall Street Journal report, SoftBank has increased its investment in OneWeb by another $500 million, bringing its total to $1.5 billion.
Wyler also told the WSJ that the company’s initial fleet of more than 700 low-altitude satellites is “generally on schedule” for launches beginning in 2018. The company plans to start offering service in Alaska by 2019 and expanding worldwide by the end of 2020, Wyler told the Journal. Further, he said that OneWeb plans to deploy 900 second-generation, higher-orbiting satellites by the mid-2020s, which he said would allow the company to offer speeds of 2.5 Gbps.
Mr. Wyler’s project has final approval from the Federal Communications Commission to turn on domestic service within two years, barring major technical or manufacturing problems. The approval also is contingent on other conditions.
According to Mr. Wyler, his team also is “trying to lead the charge” in reducing orbital debris stemming from potential satellite collisions or failures. OneWeb’s satellites, weighing hundreds of pounds and expected to cost less than $1 million apiece, are designed to be “as high or higher in quality and reliability” than much larger models costing $150 million or more, he said.
An early financial backer of some of the largest internet companies on both sides of the Pacific, SoftBank continues to seek synergies with mobile-phone businesses and the portfolio of assorted technology companies it has assembled over the years. SoftBank also has created the world’s biggest tech investment fund, worth nearly $100 billion. The Vision Fund has been roiling the venture community with its sheer scale, lifting valuations and helping entrepreneurs bypass usual fundraising rounds.
Since its official launch in May with the backing of investors such as Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund, the fund has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in companies that SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son believes will corner key technologies in a future of smarter, interconnected, and automated devices. OneWeb’s satellites are geared to help serve as the backbone for those applications, Mr. Son has said.
SoftBank, which has a 40% stake in OneWeb based on a prior investment, walked away from merger talks between its U.S. wireless carrierSprint Corp. and rival T-Mobile US Inc., unwilling to relinquish control as the top shareholder of a spectrum Mr. Son believes will be valuable as everyday objects from cars to refrigerators increasingly communicate with one another.
Mr. Wyler, for his part, has long advocated the advantages of combining satellites circling the earth at different altitudes, arguing such synergies dramatically increase capacity and efficiencies. But unlike Mr. Musk’s concept, he doesn’t favor laser links between satellites on the grounds that such add-ons unduly increase weight and complexity.
According to Fierce’s readership, Wyler is not only the industry’s top rising starfor 2017, he’s also the industry’s most powerful person. And that comes after Softbank reportedly invested another $500M in One Web- his satellite Internet start-up company!