Sat. Dec 2nd, 2023
Qualcomm ends collaboration with Iridium Communications

Chip giant Qualcomm Technologies has announced that it is terminating its collaboration with global personal satellite communications company Iridium Communications. The collaboration between the two companies aimed to bring satellite messaging and emergency services to smartphones powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Mobile Platforms using Iridium’s satellite network.

The partnership was intended to launch the world’s first satellite-based two-way messaging offering, providing satellite-based connectivity to premium smartphones. The Snapdragon Satellite platform, powered by Snapdragon 5G Modem-RF Systems and supported by Iridium’s satellite constellation, was designed to offer global connectivity using mobile messaging.

Despite successfully developing and demonstrating the technology, smartphone manufacturers did not include the satellite-based communication technology in their devices. Consequently, Qualcomm has decided to terminate the agreement, effective from 3 December 2023.

Iridium Communications stated that the termination of the partnership allows them to pursue direct engagement with smartphone manufacturers, chipmakers, and smartphone operating system developers. It also plans to establish new relationships with smart device makers, chipmakers, and developers for its existing and future service plans.

Iridium assured companies adopting its solutions of long-term service certainty and involvement in its Narrowband Non-Terrestrial-Network (NTN) service development planning. Iridium CEO Matt Desch expressed disappointment about the partnership not bearing immediate fruit but emphasized the industry’s direction towards increased satellite connectivity in consumer devices.

Industry analysts predicted the collapse of the partnership as handset manufacturers prefer investing in long-term solutions rather than proprietary satellite technology. They argue that proprietary solutions limit connectivity to individual satellite networks and disregard the existing standards-based ecosystem. Instead, they advocate for the adoption of 3GPP NTN standards, which provide open access to satellite connectivity across multiple networks and unlock new use cases and a wider market. Qualcomm has expressed its intention to continue exploring this long-term solution with Iridium.