Qualcomm Inc. is looking to leapfrog Apple Inc. by offering emergency satellite phone service using Android smartphones, with specific product announcements expected by the middle of the year.
At the CES tech event in Las Vegas, Qualcomm QCOM,
By using an appropriate Android smartphone with a clear view of the sky, users outside the reach of cellular service will be able to send emergency SMS messages using a network of 66 satellites, Qualcomm said.
In a presentation to media, Francesco Grilli, Qualcomm’s head of product management, said the service has a faster turnaround time for text messages, sometimes as fast as 10 seconds, compared with a minute or more for other services in areas with no cellular service. To use the service, Android users will point their phone at the sky to link with an Iridium satellite.
For now, the service is just for messaging, which uses less bandwidth than voice services that require a constant connection.
In September, shares of Globalstar Inc. GSAT,
Unlike Globalstar, however, Snapdragon Satellite will not need a satellite gateway on the ground, meaning the device will communicate directly with a satellite rather routing messages through infrastructure on earth.
“If there is no gateway in the area where you are, you’re out of luck,” Grilli said of Globalstar. “So if you are in the middle of the ocean, there is no Globalstar gateway there, so you have no coverage. If you are in Antarctica, there is no gateway there, you have no coverage.”
Qualcomm could not comment on specific original equipment manufacturers at the present time. The consumer-facing service will likely start in Western Europe and North America at a cost yet to be determined.
Qualcomm shares were down 1.4% in recent activity, compared with a 0.9% decline on the S&P 500 SPX,