Apple confirmed Wednesday that its devices will be able to connect to a satellite.
- During the unveiling of Apple’s latest products and updates, it announced that the phones would have the ability to connect with satellites for emergency calling and messaging services.
- iPhone 14 models will be able to send messages from areas without cellular coverage using a new feature called Emergency SOS.
- Starting in November the feature will be available for free for iPhone 14 users. The service will remain free for two years and Apple did not specify how much the service will cost following the free period.
- To bring this new feature to users, Apple is partnering with mobile satellite service provider Globalstar. The companies have agreed that Apple will be responsible for 95% of capital expenditures as Globalstar builds up its network. In return, Globalstar will dedicate 85% of its network capacity to Apple’s services.
Why it’s news
The ability to send messages or make phone calls in dead zones could be a life-saving feature for some.
Up until now, satellite phones have been constrained to bulky, expensive equipment mostly used by individuals who frequently find themselves outside of typical cell coverage. Thanks to new advancements, satellite calling can be available to a great number of people.
The partnership is big news for Globalstar. With the new agreement, the company’s forecasted revenue for the next year ranges from $185 million to $230 million. When the company’s new satellites are operational in 2026, project revenue ranges from $250 million to $310 million.
Backing up a bit
Apple isn’t the only company getting involved with satellite calling. In August, T-Mobile announced plans to partner with Elon Musk’s Starlink to provide a similar service.
The phone service provider announced that it will use Starlink satellites to provide service to T-Mobile customers who may be outside of wireless service range. Testing will begin some time in 2023 by allowing select markets to text via satellite connection.
If successful, the partnership would eliminate dead zones, providing users with services in areas where cell towers can’t reach, such as national parks, bodies of water, and rural areas.
Both cell phone plans are limited. T-Mobile’s service isn’t meant to replace traditional cell towers, but supplement them in emergency situations.
The Apple-Globalstar partnership is also intended for emergencies, not regular iPhone use in rural areas. In the announcement, Apple added that, in order to work, phones must be directly pointed at a satellite and obstructions like light foliage could interrupt the signal.