Starlink will start experimenting with satellite calls later this year


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While Apple and Android – thanks to the latest Qualcomm platform – now have the chips and antennas to communicate with satellites, manufacturers like SpaceX are getting to work. The latter plans to test satellite calls through its Starlink subsidiary later this year.

The telecom world has its eyes on space: after Apple and Qualcomm announced their solution for telecommunications from smartphones to satellites, now the champion of the constellations, the American Starlink, enters the dance. At a conference at the “Satellite 2023″ space show, SpaceX Vice President Jonathan Hofeller announced that SpaceX is preparing for ” start testing “of its satellite-to-mobile communication system” during the year “.

Read also: Qualcomm predicts satellite video calls from 2026 (March 2023)​

It was only 18 months ago that smartphone communication via satellites became a reality when the iPhone 14 Pro was announced in September 2022. Before experiencing a second gear at CES, where Qualcomm indicated the compatibility of its Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 platform with the Iridium constellation. SpaceX’s announcement adds even more weight to the platform of the world’s #1 SoC for smartphones. And by extension to Android, which must therefore be able to count on at least two constellations to route communication. While Apple’s offering is based solely on its partnership with Globalstar and its hybrid system of satellites and terrestrial antennas.

Next panel on #SATShow is about sat-to-cell, with:

ST Engineering iDirect CEO Don Claussen

Iridium CEO Matt Desch

SpaceX VP of Starlink enterprise sales Jonathan Hofeller

Charles Miller, CEO of Lynk Global

—Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) March 13, 2023
Although champion of the communication constellations with more than 4000 satellites in low earth orbit (LEO for low Earth orbit), will SpaceX add terrestrial antennas to support its space portion – and reduce bandwidth? Most importantly, SpaceX will take advantage of the second generation of its satellites (Starlink v2 Mini) to allow phones to communicate directly with them. Which, according to manufacturers in the segment, could launch a new communication revolution.

A world connected by satellites?

At the conference, key phrases of which were retweeted by CNBC’s space journalist, the president of Iridium, who was on the panel, explained: ” working closely with Qualcomm in this satellite-to-mobile communications “. Before adding that he is considering” an evolution beyond the smartphone because, according to him, “thesatellites must connect everything and everywhere “, citing pell-mell pc and cars.

5G from space

Source: “5G from Space: An Overview of 3GPP Non-Terrestrial Networks” (

A rather ambitious and understandable vision of a satellite operator, but it must be balanced by engineering… and physics. The connectivity that Qualcomm wants to offer on smartphones is mainly possible because the user points to the satellite via an app. It is thanks to the current precision of components (especially MEMS of the type gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, etc.) that smartphones are increasingly able to locate themselves in space, that they can point to bodies launched above our heads at mach 20 .

SpaceX or Iridium may be launching an armada of satellites, but the issue of precisely pointing at the satellites remains a technical limitation of Earth-to-space communication with smartphones. This goes some way to explaining SpaceX’s desire, put forward by Mr. Hofeller, to support everything with terrestrial relays. But in any case, the announcement of the connection test by SpaceX for the power of the year somewhat more confirms Qualcomm’s roadmap, which envisions the start of a commercial service around 2026.

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