Satphones for the Masses

Qualcomm is teaming up with SkyTerra’s Mobile Satellite Ventures (MSV) and ICO Global Communications to integrate satellite communications into mass-market cellular handsets, Wireless Week reports:

Under the agreement, Qualcomm will integrate satellite and cellular communication technology by developing a satellite protocol and including it in the firmware of select Qualcomm multimode baseband chips.  Qualcomm also plans to support the L- and S-Band frequencies, in which MSV and ICO operate, in select RF processors.

In essence, the same mobile chipsets at the heart of wireless devices will let handset makers produce satellite-capable devices at comparable scale and cost.

I guess this might mean the end of the "can you hear me now?" commercials, eh?

The quality of the players in this venture (no pun intended) bode well for its ultimate outcome. Qualcomm developed its satellite-based asset-tracking service, OmniTRACS, years before GPS technology became commercially available. OmniTRACS  is what’s inside those little white domes you see on on Sears trucks.


Here’s a video of how it works: 

Qualcomm is also working on the Google Android phone, which is supported by the Android open-source operating system and intended as a major competitor to the Apple iPhone:


Qualcomm is likely to face stiff competition in the future from chipmakers who want in on the Android action. 

Perhaps we’ll see similar functionality as what’s found in the Thuraya system, with the Android switching between GSM and satellite as required?

Time will tell.