Android phones to get satellite messaging through Qualcomm deal

6 Jan 2023

Image: © Sundry Photography/

The company plans to offer emergency messaging in select regions this year, while WhatsApp has launched proxy support for users with blocked or disrupted connections.

Qualcomm has partnered with satellite company Iridium to provide a new service to bring satellite messaging to Android smartphones this year. Its end goal will be to offer global coverage for service providers and equipment manufacturers.

Qualcomm said the new service, Snapdragon Satellite, will support two-way messaging for emergency use, SMS and other messaging applications.

Emergency messaging is the first target for the service, which the company plans to launch in select regions in the second half of 2023.

Iridium CEO Matt Desch said its network is “tailored” for Snapdragon, as its low-earth orbit satellites “cover every part of the globe” and support lower-power, low-latency connections.

The announcement comes after Apple launched its Emergency SOS safety feature for the iPhone 14, which lets users connect with emergency services when cellular and Wi-Fi coverage are unavailable.

This feature launched in the US and Canada last November, before expanding to Ireland, France, Germany and the UK the following month.

Qualcomm said that its Snapdragon Satellite service can reach other devices in the future, such as laptops, tablets and vehicles.

The company also plans to support 5G non-terrestrial networks as satellite infrastructure and constellations for these networks become available.

Tech company Garmin plans to collaborate with the new endeavour to expand Garmin Response, its satellite emergency response service.

“We are looking forward to collaborating with Qualcomm Technologies and Iridium to help people connect to emergency services no matter where life takes them,” said Garmin outdoor segment VP Brad Trenkle.

WhatsApp proxy support

Meanwhile, WhatsApp has announced a new service to help users maintain access even if their connection is blocked or disrupted.

The social media app has launched proxy support for its users worldwide. This feature lets users connect to WhatsApp through servers set up by various volunteers and organisations.

The company said that messages are still protected from end-to-end encryption when using these proxy servers. The service is available for anyone running the latest version of WhatsApp.

“Our wish for 2023 is that these internet shutdowns never occur,” WhatsApp said in a blog post.

“Disruptions like we’ve seen in Iran for months on end deny people’s human rights and cut people off from receiving urgent help. Though in case these shutdowns continue, we hope this solution helps people wherever there is a need for secure and reliable communication.”

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic