A recent partnership between Qualcomm and Iridium will see satellite connectivity in some future Android devices. What are the challenges to existing global connectivity, how will the partnership enable satellite connectivity, and why does Iridium provide better coverage than Starlink?
What are the challenges faced by today’s global connectivity?
As the world becomes more dependent on technology, areas with limited Internet access are becoming more and more problematic. For example, Lack of a stable internet connection may prevent users from surfing the internetreceiving emails and making calls, all of which are now essential to modern life. This is why governments around the world have brought internet infrastructure to all homes, no matter how far away they are. Of course, looking at many of these initiatives, it is not surprising that contracts were awarded to bring internet cable close to homes but not from the actual home itself, leaving many meters only a few hundred meters away from gigabit connections, but required to pay thousands. to get the last stretch of cable.
One solution to providing broadband coverage comes from cellular technologies such as 5G and 4G, and while lower frequency bands can reach many kilometres, the presence of forests, trees and hills can see very limited connectivity in remote areas (the Devon hills are notorious for poor connectivity) . Attempting to install cell towers in remote areas also has several drawbacks, including the cost of installation, maintenance, and the expected number of users.
Another solution is to use low-Earth orbiting satellites like those developed by SpaceX. Its low altitude enables low latency, while the large deployment of satellites provides global coverage. However, there are concerns that such deployments are not financially viable due to the small number of communications they can handle, the cost of launching satellites, and the potential for causing catastrophic failures of other orbiting satellites via Kessler syndrome.
Android to get satellite internet thanks to Iridium
Trying to get remote machines online presents many challenges, but as with any project, it’s best to start slowly. Instead of trying to provide high-definition video streams to devices in the middle of the Arctic, Qualcomm and Iridium have teamed up to provide essential mobile connectivity.
By enabling basic messaging capabilities, devices capable of communicating with Iridium satellites will be able to send and receive messages regardless of their location on Earth, thanks to the global coverage provided by the satellite constellation.
The partnership between Qualcomm and Iridium will see modems integrated into the next generation of Android smartphones to provide access to satellites. Thus, users of future Android devices will be able to stay connected regardless of the state of the ground infrastructure, and this can provide a new level of security for those outside cellular range.
Why does Iridium provide better coverage than Starlink?
Although Starlink has more positive press and hype, Choosing to use Iridium by Qualcomm makes sense when comparing the two services. Firstly, Iridium satellites are much more economical compared to Starlink, which has proven itself economically for more than 20 years. By orbiting at a higher altitude (780 km compared to 550 km for Starlink), the Iridium constellation requires fewer satellites, and the focus on essential communications via high-speed Internet access makes Iridium an ideal choice for basic messaging services.
Second, the Iridium satellites are physically larger, which means that each satellite is much more expensive than Starlink to manufacture and launch. However, their expensive nature and inability to launch multiple satellites on each launch means that each The Iridium satellite needs to be built to much higher quality standards than the Starlink satellites, as in-orbit failures are likely to be unrecoverable. But this high degree of reliability results in satellites having a long service life, and thus requiring fewer replacements. By contrast, Starlink satellites require replacement about once every five years, and this is one of the main economic concerns behind Starlink satellites.
Overall, the Iridium-Qualcomm partnership will help bring satellite capabilities into future Android devices, ushering in a new era of continuous connectivity no matter where you are.