While it doesn’t seem to be region-specific, the widely reported news that satellite operator Iridium is entering into a service agreement for a direct-to-smartphone satellite service could be significant for many territories in both the developing and developed world.
A deal mentioned in a late December regulatory filing provided no financial details or timings, though it has been suggested that Samsung may be the partner in this initiative given the company’s reported plans to use Iridium’s constellation to bring satellite connectivity to its range of Galaxy S23 range of smartphones this year.
Iridium first indicated that it had signed a development contract with an unnamed company to enable its satellite technology in smartphones in July.
Direct-to-smartphone services are clearly planned by more than two companies, however. Recent news has highlighted similar plans from Globalstar (partnering with Apple) and the arrival of new entrants like AST SpaceMobile and SpaceX.
In fact according to Northern Sky Research, a major name in satellite and space market research and consulting services, the direct satellite-to-device market is the single biggest opportunity in satellite comms history. Meanwhile, the ITU is working on its vision for mobile communications beyond 2030, and non-terrestrial networks, including satellites, are expected to part of this.
So could this activity be relevant to developing markets? Quite possibly. AST SpaceMobile, which is building the first global cellular broadband network in space to operate directly with standard, unmodified mobile devices, suggests its technology will finally bring broadband to the billions who remain unconnected.