Apple expands satellite messaging beyond emergency calls

Apple expands satellite messaging beyond emergency calls

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Apple’s IoS18 update, announced at its WWDC 2024 event this week, will support satellite-based messaging services.

In a major development for the satellite direct to device ecosystem, iPhone users will have an option to send messages via satellite when cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity is offline.

The announcement follows Apple’s enablement of emergency SOS capabilities, which allows users to text emergency services when off-grid.

The broadening of this offering uses the same technology but will allow for a wider range of SMS and iMessage’s to be delivered.

It will only be available on handsets that previously supported the emergency SOS function, namely the iPhone 14 and subsequent models.

In a LinkedIn post, Lluc Palerm Serra, a research director at Analysys Mason’s Northern Sky Research satellite consultancy, said there are still some unanswered questions around the service, such as pricing or the role of MNOs.

Apple’s satellite partner of choice for the service is Globalstar, which is in the middle of refreshing its fleet of satellites and its constellation is limited in the amount of capacity supply.

It is planning to add 17 new MDA-Space manufactured satellites in 2025, but Palerm Serra says it remains to be seen how the service will scale.

The announcement follows several other developments in the US’s direct-to-device market.

Starlink has announced a partnership with T-Mobile to deliver direct-to-device SMS this year, with voice and data services to follow in 2025.

Just last month, AT&T and AST SpaceMobile announce a commercial agreement to provide its space-based broadband network direct to everyday cell phones.

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