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Apple eyes next iPhone to support satellite communications

Apple’s next iPhone is rumored to have support for satellite communications, Fierce Wireless and other news outlets report. If true, Apple iPhone 13 users could still have network access when terrestrial-based 4G and 5G networks are unavailable.

The rumors have provided a boost for satellite company Globalstar, which saw its shares increase more than 40% on August 30. Additionally, satellite companies Iridium and AST SpaceMobile saw their shares rise more than 9% and 4%, respectively.

TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo noted that the iPhone 13 lineup will contain hardware that can connect to LEO (low Earth orbit) satellites, which would permit users to make calls and send texts, according to MacRumors. Additionally, MacRumors reports that the soon-to-be-released iPhone 13 allegedly is equipped with a customized Qualcomm X60 baseband chip, which supports satellite communications. Meanwhile, other smartphone brands won’t have access to the X65 baseband chip, which can enable satellite communications, until next year.

Kuo also stated that the “simplest scenario” for getting LEO communications to users is if network operators work with Globalstar. The company declined Fierce Wireless’ request for comment. Meanwhile, Iridium declined to comment on specifics, but did release a statement:

“LEO satellite communication is a hot trend right now,” the company said in its release. “As you might imagine, with Iridium being at the forefront of L-band personal communications we are always looking at ways to embed more and more personal devices, such as smartphones or other mass market consumer devices, with Iridium Connected technology.”

Not a new concept

The smartphones using satellite tech to connect customers concept is not a new one, according to Fierce Wireless. Globalstar was asked to prove its technology was compatible with the iPhone 6. Meanwhile PCMag’s Sascha Segan said based on the latest iPhone 13 reports, the device is tied to a vast amount of spectrum Globalstar wanted to use to boost LTE.

It is still anyone’s guess how satellite tech would impact an iPhone, as well as when it would happen. Whether or not the iPhone 13 includes satellite technology, Morgan Stanley analysts are optimistic about the device’s prospects. Analyst Katy Huberty predicted 136 million global iPhone shipments for the second half of this year. That would be a 12% increase year-over-year and a 36% jump over the first half of 2021.

“U.S. smartphone volumes have already picked up in recent quarters boosted by reopening and some aggressive offers, particularly for existing customers looking to upgrade to a new device,” Morgan Stanley said in its report this week.

Joe Dyton can be reached at joed@fifthgenmedia.com.

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