Apple’s Satellite Efforts Could Expand to Provide Voice, Internet Data

Apple’s Satellite Efforts Could Expand to Provide Voice, Internet Data

A new patent suggests that Apple is interested in one day providing voice and Internet data to iPhone users through orbiting satellites.

The company already provides satellite communication on the iPhone 14 series. But for now, the Emergency SOS feature can only be used to send text messages to emergency services (and share your location via the Find Me app). However, this may change in the future. Apple just got a new patent(Opens in a new window) in the US regarding a “communications terminal” that can be mounted on orbiting satellites.

Patently Apple, who noticed(Opens in a new window) the filing, notes that the patent mentions the incorporation of transceivers on the communications terminal for the purpose of powering voice and Internet services.

“Satellite communications data transmitted by transceivers and antenna radiators may include media data (e.g., streaming video, television data, satellite radio data, etc.), voice data (e.g., telephone voice data), Internet data, and/or any other desired data,” Apple’s patent says.

An image from the patent filing.

Diagrams of Apple’s patent filing.

The same patent mentions the use of antennas on the communication terminal to establish “wireless links” with potentially hundreds or even thousands of supported devices.

The patent suggests that Apple may have big ambitions to provide satellite connectivity to the next generation of iPhones, allowing customers to go online even when no cell tower is within range. In the short term, Apple has already revealed that it is spending $450 million to expand the satellite network infrastructure across the US to support the Emergency SOS feature.

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In addition, the company has agreed to help satellite communications provider Globalstar launch new satellites. This includes Apple paying 95% of the cost for the new satellites. In return, Globalstar will assign 85% of its current and future network to Cupertino.

Apple will not be alone in the cellular satellite market. T-Mobile is partnering with SpaceX to use the company’s Starlink system to provide voice and Internet data to the carrier’s customers. The service is expected to launch sometime next year using existing LTE T-Mobile smartphones.

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