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Last fall, Apple unveiled the much-anticipated iPhone 14, featuring an innovative Emergency SOS via satellite feature that enables users to contact emergency services and send short text messages even without a cellular connection.
This groundbreaking technology is made possible through Apple’s collaboration with Globalstar, a prominent satellite communications company. However, recent developments suggest that the iPhone’s satellite capabilities might expand further, as indicated by a new filing by Globalstar with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Shortly before Apple’s announcement, T-Mobile and Starlink made waves by announcing their plans to bring direct Starlink connectivity to existing iPhone and Android devices. In response, T-Mobile submitted an FCC filing stating that current consumer devices lack the ability to receive signals from mobile satellite services (MSS). Nevertheless, T-Mobile and SpaceX propose an alternative solution called supplemental coverage from space (SCS), which would utilize the devices consumers already possess to receive satellite signals in areas with no terrestrial coverage.
Contrary to T-Mobile’s claims, Globalstar’s recent filing challenges the notion that today’s consumer devices lack the capability for satellite connectivity using MSS. Globalstar highlights its existing support for direct-to-device MSS in mass-market consumer devices, particularly emphasizing the notable benefits this technology brings to emergency communications in rural and remote areas. Apple’s groundbreaking Emergency SOS via satellite feature, launched in 2022, utilizes Globalstar’s MSS network and has already resulted in numerous life-saving rescues.
Globalstar is not only demonstrating its present capabilities but also expressing its commitment to further enhancing satellite technology. The company asserts that its MSS system will evolve over time to support an expanding range of direct-to-handset features and services. Their goal is to provide hundreds of millions of people worldwide with Globalstar connectivity in critical communication situations where terrestrial networks are unavailable.
In light of this vision, Globalstar is urging the FCC to ensure that SCS implementation does not cause harmful interference to other satellite systems, both within and outside the United States. Such precautions are essential to fostering a harmonious coexistence between different satellite providers.
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Globalstar’s response to T-Mobile and Starlink is particularly noteworthy considering Apple’s substantial investment of $450 million in satellite connectivity infrastructure and development. This significant financial commitment highlights Apple’s dedication to expanding the capabilities of its devices and ensuring that users can enjoy seamless satellite connectivity. A significant portion of Apple’s investment is being directed toward Globalstar, further solidifying the partnership between the two tech giants.
At present, Apple’s Emergency SOS via satellite feature supports text messaging, location sharing, and contacting emergency services. The feature is available free of charge for two years, with the possibility of a subscription service after this initial period. However, the allure of paying for such a service becomes even more enticing if it also includes internet connectivity and phone calls via satellite. This potential advancement could revolutionize communication possibilities, particularly in areas with limited or no terrestrial coverage.