Update 31/08/2021: According to a report from Bloomberg, Apple is planning to add satellite features to iPhones to be used in emergency situations. The company is developing tech that could be used in areas like mountains where there’s no 4G or 5G connectivity. The report noted that it has even considered deploying its own satellite eventually. However, it doesn’t mention when the firm plans to debut this tech.
A few days ago, the usually-accurate Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo released a research note asserting that the iPhone 13 would probably be able to make calls via satellite. This was a big deal for some users, as it meant you could theoretically make calls anywhere outdoors in the world.
Unfortunately, evidence suggests Kuo may have gotten some of the details wrong this time.
Kuo originally asserted that Apple is planning to use a customized Qualcomm X60 chip that would support the n53 band used by Globalstar, a satellite communications company. Seems pretty clear cut, right?
As pointed out by several folks around Twitter, including PCMag’s Sascha Segan, the problem is that specific band isn’t used for satellite communications at all. It’s one of Globalstar’s plain old terrestrial bands, which Apple may simply be using for expanded LTE connectivity.
Globalstar is a satellite company, yes! But Globalstar also owns a swathe of terrestrial spectrum in the 2.4GHz zone called b53/n53 which it has been trying to get used by private networks and LAA deployments. See: https://t.co/VqJhv3dDC9
— Sascha Segan (@saschasegan) August 30, 2021
Kuo appears to have made the satellite assertion simply based on the support for Globalstar’s n53 band, but given Kuo’s track record it’s still possible that his conclusion was correct even if the analysis was flawed.
It’s also possible Apple is considering the satellite thing for future iPhones, and a partnership with Globalstar on n53 is just a first step. After all, Globalstar is a relatively unknown company among mainstream consumers, so it seems a little weird that Apple would commission a custom modem just to support a rare wireless band. Apple has also been rumored to be working on satellite communications as far back as 2019, so it wouldn’t be surprising if this were something on the company’s mind.
Still, for now, you should take the satellite rumor with a big ol’ grain of salt.
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