The iPhone 14 introduced an Emergency SOS feature that uses satellites to send short messages and location data, and other companies are rushing to offer similar features. Samsung has now entered the space race with its own modem technology.
Samsung Electronics has confirmed that it developed a technology for direct connection between smartphones and satellites, using the latest 5G Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) standard defined by 3GPP. The solution allows phones to send and receive data from satellites, like the technology currently in development by Qualcomm and Iridium Communications. The iPhone 14’s SOS feature is more limited, as it only offers one-way communication.
Samsung says its satellite feature doesn’t require a separate high-power antenna in a phone, cutting down on potential cost and complexity. The company also tested the feature with its existing Exynos Modem 5300, which is the same hardware used in the Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. We don’t know if satellite connectivity could be rolled out to existing phones with Samsung modems, though — the Modem 5300 was being tested with “simulated 5G NTN,” and the company plans to integrate the feature properly in future hardware.
The announcement explains the technology “uses satellites and other non-terrestrial vehicles to bring connectivity to regions that were previously unreachable by terrestrial networks, whether over mountains, across deserts or in the middle of the ocean.” Samsung is also hoping to support two-way text messaging and “high-definition image and video sharing.”
Even though Samsung is working on modems to support satellite connectivity, the feature might not arrive in future flagship Galaxy phones. This year’s Galaxy S23 uses the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset, which uses a Snapdragon X70 modem, not an Exynos modem from Samsung. If Samsung sticks with Qualcomm’s hardware for its flagship smartphones and tablets, it will probably have to use Qualcomm’s satellite solution whenever that arrives.