Last week, SpaceX and American telecommunications company T-Mobile announced that they will begin work on providing satellite connectivity for smartphones. Google recently announced that starting with Android 14 this will be a feature that will be open to all devices provided they have the partnerships that would enable satellite connection.
That development comes from Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s senior vice president of Platforms & Ecosystems, this morning, who shared how it “was an effort to get 3G + Wifi working” on the first Android phone back in 2008.
The Android team is now developing “for satellites,” and that support is planned for the “next version of Android,” which Google has confirmed to us as Android 14. This OS version should arrive in mid to late 2023.
Wild to think about user experiences for phones that can connect to satellites. When we launched G1 in 2008, getting 3G + Wifi up and running was a breeze. Now we are designing for satellites. Cool! We’re excited to help our partners make all of this possible in the next version of Android!
— Hiroshi Lockheimer (@lockheimer) September 1, 2022
Lockheimer alludes to how user experiences for phones that can connect to satellites will differ from regular LTE and 5G connections. Users should expect speeds, connectivity, and even interaction time will vary since there will only be two to four megabits of bandwidth per cellular zone, Space Explored noted last week. Given the bandwidth available, Elon Musk said the satellite connection could support one to two thousand simultaneous voice calls or hundreds of thousands of text messages that could be sent depending on the length of the text message.
The satellite connection on phones is mainly aimed at emergency situations and eliminating dead spots. T-Mobile plans to support text messaging, MMS, and some popular messaging apps. The carrier said it had to work with partners to separate messaging traffic from all other traffic.
SpaceX and Tesla have yet to begin work on the technology that will make this possible, and will do so in the coming months. In the long term, it will be about data and voice support. The first beta availability of this service will be around the end of 2023.
Existing iPhone and Android devices are supported today, but the experience, particularly that of the end user, should benefit from additional support at the operating system level. Meanwhile, T-Mobile and SpaceX are encouraging other carriers to roll out mutual roaming and spectrum sharing. It makes sense that Android will offer native support as adoption grows.
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