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India is ready for Apple’s satellite connectivity

If Apple wants to go ahead with this feature in India, then it will have to partner with satellite internet providers like Hughes or OneWeb

September 13, 2022 10:54 am | Updated 12:16 pm IST

File photo of the new iPhone 14 Plus, exhibited at an Apple event at their headquarters in Cupertino, California

File photo of the new iPhone 14 Plus, exhibited at an Apple event at their headquarters in Cupertino, California | Photo Credit: Reuters

Apple on September 7 launched the iPhone 14 series and with that came satellite connectivity on a commercial mobile phone brand. However, this feature will be limited to the U.S. and Canada only. Apple has restricted the availability of the satellite connectivity feature even though India already has the technology here.

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“We already have satellite connectivity technology available in India,” said Suneel Kumar Niraniyan, DDG (Satellite), Department of Telecommunications (DoT). He was referring to  The Hindu’s question on Apple’s satellite connectivity for iPhones.

“If Apple comes up for clearance on this then we are ready, but they have to tie up with a satellite operator,” he mentioned. 

Satellite connectivity is an emergency feature used in the most remote locations where mobile connectivity is not available. The challenge with satellite communication is that it works best in open spaces without any obstructions, and in most cases is a paid service.

India is ready for Apple’s satellite connectivity

India is ready for Apple’s satellite connectivity | Photo Credit: Apple

“What Apple has introduced is a kind of alert or messaging service, and not mobile voice service. The kind of antenna these phones (commercial) have (small) does not support voice services over satellite which is 600 kilometres away,” said Shivaji Chatterjee, SVP and Business Head of the Enterprise Business Unit at Hughes Communications India. Hughes is a high-speed satellite internet service provider. 

On Monday, Hughes Communications India (HCI), announced the commercial launch of India’s first High-Throughput Satellite (HTS) broadband service. The HTS broadband service from Hughes combines Ku-band capacity from the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO’s) GSAT-11 and GSAT-29 satellites to deliver high-speed broadband across India. 

“The satellite connectivity on a phone is at a very early stage. So, we should not be overexcited by it. It won’t work indoors because you need a line of sight, you must go out to use it,” he added. 

Apple’s satellite connectivity feature in the U.S. and Canada will use the Globalstar network in the low-Earth orbit to help people in distress. Globalstar competes with Elon Musk’s Starlink in that region. If Apple wants to go ahead with this feature in India, then it will have to partner with satellite internet providers like Hughes or OneWeb.

India is ready for Apple’s satellite connectivity

India is ready for Apple’s satellite connectivity | Photo Credit: Apple

If Apple has announced such technologies, we can expect that other leading mobile players such as Samsung would like to include this feature in their future phones as well.

About the mass adoption of satellite connectivity by mobile players, Mr. Chatterjee said, “We are watching this space; it is always interesting because so many things can happen. It’s very dynamic.”

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