Samsung is looking at satellite connectivity for 5G smartphones

Samsung will be integrating the 'non-terrestrial networks' tech into its Exynos modems.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Image: Uwe Moser/Getty Images

Samsung has said it is working to integrate technology to allow 5G smartphones to use satellite communications in areas without cellular coverage.  

Samsung has announced it has secured "standardized 5G non-terrestrial networks (NTN) modem technology for direct communication between smartphones and satellites" that it plans to integrate with its Exynos modems. 

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The system would allow Exynos smartphone modems to use NTN to communicate with low-Earth orbit satellites in a similar fashion to Apple's Emergency SOS satellite feature for the iPhone 14 and newer models. Apple's satellite service is free for two years after the user activates a new iPhone.

However, beyond messaging -- as Apple's SOS feature is limited to -- Samsung said its Exynos modems will be capable of two-way text messaging as well as high-definition image and video sharing.

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According to Samsung, its Exynos 5300 reference platform can "accurately predict satellite locations and minimize frequency offsets caused by the Doppler shift." A user in an area with no land-based cellular coverage would transmit data to a satellite with a clear line of sight. The satellite would relay the data to groundstations connected to a cellular base station.  

For the iPhone 14's Emergency SOS service, Apple partnered with satellite operator Globalstar, which has satellites in low-Earth orbit. 

Samsung's Galaxy S23 series doesn't have the satellite feature and the company hasn't said which of its own phones could get it, nor which satellite operator it would partner with. Samsung told CNET at the Galaxy S23 launch in February that it was considering satellite technology when the tech matures. Its Exynos system on chips (SoCs) are used in its Galaxy phones and are available to other phone manufacturers.    

Qualcomm in January announced a partnership with satellite operator Iridium to bring satellite to Android phones via the Snapdragon Satellite service, which supports satellite-based two-way messaging for emergency use, SMS texting, messaging apps, and "recreational use". It will be available on newer phones with both Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 system on chip and the Snapdragon X70 modem. T-Mobile has also partnered with SpaceX to provide connectivity in remote areas via the Starlink satellite constellation.  

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