With the iPhone 14 last fall, Apple introduced its new Satellite Emergency SOS feature that allows users to contact emergency services and send short text messages without a cellular connection. Apple is working with Globalstar on its satellite technology, and in a new FCC filing, Globalstar hints at an expansion of the iPhone’s satellite capabilities.
Shortly before Apple’s announcement, however, T-Mobile and Starlink also teamed up to announce vague plans to bring the direct Starlink connection to existing iPhone and Android devices. In a subsequent FCC filing, T-Mobile wrote, “Today’s ubiquitous consumer devices will not support receiving MSS (mobile satellite service) signals.”
SpaceX and T-Mobile are proposing to provide Supplemental Coverage from Space, or SCS, through their partnership.
As T-Mobile and SpaceX explained, SCS is particularly attractive because it’s based on devices that consumers are already using today; they will simply receive satellite signals using those same devices in areas where they do not receive terrestrial signals. While the public interest may favor the additional use of spectrum designated for MSS use, today’s ubiquitous consumer devices will not support the reception of MSS signals.
In a new filing spotted by PCMag this week, Globalstar dismisses T-Mobile’s claims that today’s consumer devices don’t support satellite connectivity via MSS.
Globalstar already supports direct-to-device MSS for emergency communications in mass-market consumer devices and is delivering tremendous public benefit benefits globally, even in rural and remote areas. In 2022, Apple Inc. announced a revolutionary direct-to-phone “Emergency SOS via satellite” feature using Globalstar’s MSS network that is now available to users of the iPhone 14 family of devices.
Apple’s Satellite Emergency SOS feature allows users to initiate emergency communications via the MSS transceivers contained in these devices and supports two-way messaging communications between the user and public safety personnel.
This feature has already led to many life-saving rescues since its launch.
Globalstar goes on to say that by using MSS, it will also be able to improve its deployment of satellite technology in the future.
“Globalstar’s MSS system will continue to evolve over time to support a growing range of features and services right on the phone across its licensed spectrum”, says the company. “Eventually, hundreds of millions of people around the world will have Globalstar connectivity at their fingertips in situations where communications are critical and no terrestrial network is available.”
With that in mind, Globalstar is also asking the FCC to ensure that SCS “does not cause harmful interference to other satellite systems, whether inside or outside the United States.”
It’s hardly surprising to hear Globalstar confirm its plans to continue investing in satellite connectivity features for iPhone users. After all, Apple itself has invested $450 million in supporting satellite connectivity infrastructure and development. Much of that investment will go directly to Globalstar.
Interestingly, Globalstar’s response is directed at T-Mobile and Starlink, who are pushing to bring satellite Internet connectivity to smartphone users. Is Globalstar hinting at its plans to do the same using MSS technology? It sounds like this.
Currently, Emergency SOS via satellite supports the ability to send short text messages, share location data and contact emergency services. The feature is free for two years, with Apple presumably planning a subscription service once that period has expired. The idea of paying becomes much more attractive if the satellite features also include Internet connectivity and phone calls.
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