Posts with «telecommunication» label

AT&T opposes the Starlink and T-Mobile satellite-to-phone service plan

AT&T doesn't think that the satellite-to-phone service T-Mobile and SpaceX's Starlink are planning should be approved as it is, and it has informed the FCC of its opinion in a filing (PDF). As Bloomberg notes, the carrier has raised concerns that the companies' service, in its current proposed state, could interfere with existing wireless services. "[I]t is paramount that operations do not jeopardize or inhibit the delivery of terrestrial wireless services," AT&T wrote. 

In August last year, T-Mobile and SpaceX announced a collaboration that would allow the carrier's subscribers to connect to Starlink's second-gen satellites for coverage even if they're in the most remote locations. The companies are gearing up to begin testing this year, and the FCC started seeking comments (PDF) in April on their request to establish supplemental coverage from space (SCS). AT&T's filing is a response to that call. 

The carrier wrote that FCC's rules "do not permit SpaceX’s proposed use of T-Mobile’s terrestrial spectrum" and that the companies "fail to even request — much less justify — rule waivers that would be necessary to authorize their proposed SCS authorizations." It added: "More broadly, the Applicants' technical showings are woefully insufficient regarding the risk of harmful interference posed by their planned SCS deployments. SpaceX and T-Mobile’s applications fall far short of meeting the threshold for waiver and cannot be granted in their current state."

AT&T has plans for a satellite service of its own in partnership with communications specialist AST SpaceMobile. The companies successfully conducted the first two-way satellite audio call on AT&T's network in Texas to a Rakuten number in Japan on a Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone in April. The carrier assured in its filing that consistent with its comments, "AT&T and AST intend to provide the demonstrations necessary to show that they will not cause interference to any authorized terrestrial system."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

iPhone syncing for Windows 11 is now available for everyone

Microsoft says iPhone support for its Phone Link app is now available for all Windows 11 users. Announced in February, Microsoft’s feature allows syncing calls, contacts and messages — including limited iMessage support — between an iPhone and PC.

Phone Link has been around (under various names) for Android-synced desktop features since 2015, but this is the first time it’s supported iPhones. Microsoft has deployed a phased launch, starting with select Windows Insider preview testers in late February. Then, the company began rolling out general availability last month, promising to support all Windows 11 users by mid-May. So, right on cue, it said today that everyone with a Windows PC and iPhone can now use the new feature.

🚨COOL, NEW FEATURE ALERT🚨 access your phone from your PC with Microsoft Phone Link! learn more:

— Windows (@Windows) May 15, 2023

Phone Link for iPhone has several limitations that Android phones don’t. First, although it supports iMessage syncing, it doesn’t work with group chats or sending images and videos. In addition, voice messages and iMessage apps won’t work. Still, it could serve as a handy built-in service to save you from switching between your computer and phone.

To get started, you’ll want to search for “Phone Link” in the Windows taskbar. After opening the app, you’ll still need to set up a few things on both devices. First, select iPhone as your device type, and use your phone’s camera to scan the QR code in the Phone Link app. The devices will pair over Bluetooth, and you’ll need to confirm several permissions on both iPhone and PC. It supports any iPhone running iOS 14.0 or later.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Apple's iPhone 14 Emergency SOS feature arrives in New Zealand and Australia

Apple's iPhone 14 Emergency SOS satellite feature launched last year in the US and Canada, then came to France, Germany, Ireland and the UK shortly afterwards. Now, it's finally launching elsewhere on the planet, coming to New Zealand and Australia — two countries with large wilderness areas lacking any cellular service. As before, it's available to all iPhone 14 users ( iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max) on iOS 16.4 or greater and is free for two years following activation. 

"Australians know full well the importance of remaining connected in regional, rural, and remote areas, particularly when they need emergency services," said Australia’s minister of communications, Michelle Rowland, in a statement. "The ability to contact Triple Zero with Emergency SOS via satellite when there is no mobile coverage is a strong backup to keep Australians connected in an emergency." 

Emergency SOS via Satellite is activated by a long press on the power and volume buttons, or rapidly pressing the power button five times. The interface guides you on the best direction to point your iPhone for the best signal. Once connected, you can open a message interface with emergency service providers, and the phone will also communicate your location. If everything goes to plan, you'll receive a message that responders have been notified, and to stay where you are.

You can also share your location with family members in a non-emergency using the Find My app. Users simply open the Me tab, swipe up to see My Location via Satellite, and tap Send My Location. It also works with iPhone and Apple Watch Crash and Fall Detection features. There's even a demo mode that lets you practice using Emergency SOS so you can act quickly if a real emergency arises.

"Since launching last year, Emergency SOS via satellite has already helped save lives in the 12 countries where it has been available," Apple noted. It added that users should be patient if they use the feature, as "it can take a few minutes for even short messages to get through" due to the low bandwidth and rapid speeds of satellites. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

AT&T completes the first 'space-based voice call' using a standard smartphone

AT&T, helped by satellite communications specialist AST SpaceMobile, has announced the first two-way audio call using satellites with a standard smartphone. The initial call came from AT&T in Midland, Texas, to mobile carrier Ratuken in Japan on an unmodified Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone using AST SpaceMobile's BlueWalker 3 satellite.

The use of satellites could be a significant step toward increasing cellular access not only in the US, where large areas of the country struggle with service, but in developing countries too. Typically a mobile phone call requires nearby cell towers to provide service. Many areas across the United States, such as rural communities and national parks, are "dead zones" — yes, just like the eerie early 2000s Verizon commercials warned. The same technology could be a great solution to the same issues in developing countries. Instead, satellites could act as a sort of space-based network of cell towers — with AST SpaceMobile claiming it's "building the first and only space-based cellular broadband network."

AT&T aims to use satellites to provide global cellular broadband from 2G to 5G. "Achieving what many once considered impossible, we have reached the most significant milestone to date in our quest to deliver global cellular broadband from space," Abel Avellan, CEO and chairman of AST SpaceMobile, said in a release. "While we take a moment to celebrate this tremendous accomplishment, we remain focused on the path ahead and pivotal next steps that get us closer to our goal of transforming the way the world connects." 

It's unclear whether satellite access would come at an extra cost. In AT&T's original AST SpaceMobile partnership annoucement, the company couldn't say whether existing plans would include satellite coverage. 

AT&T is one of a few carriers looking to expand its satellite access. Verizon teamed up with Amazon's Project Kuiper satellite network in 2021 with the intention of connecting underserved communities and industries. Amazon is in the midst of launching its satellites into space, with its FCC license requiring at least half of the 3,236 they plan to deploy to be operational by July 2026. 

T-Mobile has also partnered with SpaceX, a major competitor of Project Kuiper, with plans to "start getting into testing" its satellite mobile coverage this year. There are currently over 4,000 Starlink V2 satellites in orbit, though some have experienced issues requiring them to be removed from orbit or tested further. T-Mobile has claimed customers should have satellite access through most existing plans and, like AT&T, that existing phones should work with the satellite offerings. 

While satellite offerings aren't available for consumers yet, this successful test brings widespread access one step closer to becoming a reality. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Google Fi adds a one-week eSIM trial and 'Wireless' to its name

Google Fi has announced a series of updates, including a change to its name. From now on, the mobile virtual network operator will be known as Google Fi Wireless. While that's not quite as snappy, it should be clearer to consumers what the service actually is.

If you have an eSIM-compatible device, you'll be able to test out Google Fi Wireless at no cost. That's because there's a seven-day free trial. Google started testing the trial last month and it's now available more broadly. If you don't cancel the Google Fi Wireless trial within a week, you'll join the Simply Unlimited plan (which you'll still be able to quit at any time).

Other providers already offer eSIM trials, including Verizon (which has a 30-day trial) and T-Mobile, which offers potential customers the chance to try its network for three months at no cost. T-Mobile's network powers Google Fi Wireless, but the latter will hope that its bells and whistles will lure folks to that service.

The Simply Unlimited plan costs as little as $20 per user per month, depending on how many people are included. It offers unlimited data (throttled after 35GB), calls and texts in the US, Canada and Mexico, along with spam call blocking, a VPN and 5GB of tethered data. Google Fi Wireless is sweetening the deal further, as the plan now includes cellular connectivity for certain smartwatches at no extra cost. 

The service already included Pixel Watch connectivity on the Flexible and Unlimited Plus plans. That device is now supported on the Simply Unlimited plan as well. Moreover, Google Fi Wireless has also started offering Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro connectivity on all three plans. 

Elsewhere, Google is offering a phone at no cost for every new line that's added to any plan, as long as you make a 24-month commitment. You can snag a Google Pixel 6a, Samsung A14 or Moto G Power through this offer, which is based on bill credits.

As part of Google Fi Wireless' mission to recenter the service around families, it's rolling out a redesign of the namesake app starting today. It'll be easier for parents and guardians to manage safety settings, Google says. Among the options are to only allow trusted numbers to call or text a child's device. The app will also offer the ability to manage your Google Fi Wireless plan and add new members.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

FCC proposal would make it easier for smartphones to link to satellites

Satellite-to-phone service is only just getting started, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to give a boost. The regulator is proposing rules that would make it easier for phone carriers and satellite operators to provide coverage in remote and underserved areas. Under the plan, satellite companies teaming with cellular providers could get FCC permission to operate on some licensed, flexible wireless spectrum normally reserved for ground-based service.

Operators would have to meet certain requirements. They'd have to use non-geostationary orbit satellites, and get leases from terrestrial spectrum owners in a given area. After that, though, they could provide outdoor service even in areas where cellphones are completely non-functional.

Few devices support satellite connections so far. Apple's iPhone 14 family can use satellites to send emergency messages. Qualcomm's Snapdragon Satellite enables texting off the grid, but only for Android phones using Snapdragon systems-on-chip and the X70 modem. It won't arrive until the second half of 2023, however. Carrier partnerships also won't kick off in earnest until T-Mobile and SpaceX roll out their Starlink-based collaboration. Testing for that begins later this year, although it should work with both standard texting as well as some messaging apps.

The technology usually depends on line of sight to a satellite, and the limited bandwidth of existing solutions makes them impractical for significant data transfers. However, they can help you reach first responders during a hike or confirm your arrival at a camp site in the wilderness. Eventually, the hope is to use satellites for general data.

The FCC is looking for public input on how the satellite-to-cell rules would bolster access to 911 and Wireless Emergency Alerts. The agency is also exploring whether or not it can apply the framework to other purposes, regions and wireless bands. If the proposal moves ahead, though, carriers beyond T-Mobile may have a relatively easy time filling (some) gaps in their networks.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

SpaceX is getting ready to test its Starlink satellite-to-cell phone service

Last summer, Elon Musk and T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert announced "Coverage Above and Beyond," a joint initiative that aimed to bring Starlink satellite coverage compatible T-Mobile devices. Now, SpaceX is getting ready to begin testing its satellite-to-cellular service.

During a panel at the Satellite Conference and Exhibition 2023, SpaceX VP of Starlink enterprise sales Jonathan Hofeller said the company had plans to "start getting into testing" its satellite-to-cell service this year. "We're going to learn a lot by doing — not necessarily by overanalyzing — and getting out there, working with the telcos."

Hofeller: SpaceX plans to "start getting into testing" its Starlink satellite-to-cell service "this year."

— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) March 13, 2023

Hofeller didn't specifically say which Telco SpaceX was working with, but the timeline certainly lines up with Musk's original vision for the T-Mobile partnership. In August, he promised that Starlink V2 would launch in 2023 and would "transmit direct to mobile phones, eliminating dead zones worldwide." At the time T-Mobile said the service would give the carrier "near complete coverage" of most of the United States, specifically highlighting areas that are notoriously difficult to find a signal: National Parks, mountain ranges, deserts and other remote locations.

Either way, the panel seemed optimistic about the future of sat-to-cell technology. Lynk Global CEO Charles Miller said that satellite cellular service has the potential to be the "biggest category in satellite," and Iridium CEO Matt Desch sees cellular satellite service as just the beginning. "Satellite should connect everything everywhere," he said at the event, imagining the technology connecting to computers, vehicles and more.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

MediaTek is set to unveil its own phone-to-satellite communication system next week

MediaTek is set to demonstrate its new technology that can put two-way satellite communications on smartphones at this year's Mobile World Congress (MWC), which will take place from February 28th to March 3rd. Some of the devices that will show whether the semiconductor's product actually works will come from Motorola. The manufacturer will debut two satellite smartphones, the defy 2 and CAT S75, as well as a Bluetooth accessory that comes equipped with MediaTek's chip at the event. 

The company's response to Qualcomm's and Apple's satellite technologies is a standalone chipset that can be added to any 4G or 5G phone. It uses the 3GPP Non-Terrestrial Network standard instead of proprietary technologies like Qualcomm's and Apple's do, which means it can be used with any network that complies with the standard. MediaTek teamed up with a company called Bullitt to use the latter's Satellite Connect service and enable the satellite messaging feature on the aforementioned Motorola devices.

Another difference is that MediaTek's chips connect to Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit satellites instead of to satellites in Low Earth Orbit. The chipmaker says its technology enables not just emergency SOS texts like Apple's can, but also full two-way messaging. That means it can actually receive messages sent via satellite connection and not just send them. The iPhone 14, which debuted Apple's satellite tech, can't receive messages without a traditional cellular connection yet. Meanwhile, devices using Qualcomm's Snapdragon Satellite tech will need to be manually refreshed for new messages.

The Motorola defy 2 smartphone and defy Bluetooth accessory will be released in the second quarter of the year across North America, Latin America and Canada and will be the first devices to offer MediaTek's satellite capabilities. 


Samsung is readying its own smartphone-to-satellite communication platform

There was speculation that Samsung could use smartphone-to-satellite technology in its Galaxy S23 much like Apple has for the iPhone 14, but that didn't happen in the end. Now, the company has unveiled a new standardized 5G NTN (non-terrestrial network) modem that will enable two-way communication between smartphones and satellites. The technology will allow users to send and receive calls, text messages and data without the need for a cellular network, and will be integrated into Samsung's future Exynos chips.

The aim is to allow people in mountains, deserts or other remote areas to communication with others in critical situations. 5G NTN conforms to 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP Release 17) standards, meaning it works with traditional communication services from chip manufacturers, smartphone makers and telecoms.


However, Samsung indicated that the tech could eventually be used to transmit high-definition photos and even video, on top of texts and calls. It simulated the tech using its Exynos Modem 5300 platform "to accurately predict satellite locations and minimize frequency offsets caused by Doppler shift," the company said. That will help pave the way for hybrid terrestrial-NTN networks "in preparation for the arrival of 6G," said Samsung VP Min Goo Kim. 

At CES 2023, Qualcomm unveiled Snapdragon Satellite, technology that would allow smartphones to send messages when no cellular signal is available. It'll work in smartphones that have both the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset and X70 modem system, plus some additional radios. Since Samsung's Galaxy S23 has both chips, it was thought the device may offer satellite communication technology to match Apple's iPhone 14. 

However, Samsung mobile experience VP TM Roh said it wasn't the best moment, as satellite functionality is still fairly limited. "When there is the right timing, infrastructure and the technology is ready, then of course for Samsung Galaxy, for our mobile division, we would also actively consider adopting this feature as well," he told CNET in an interview.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon Satellite will let Android phones text off the grid

Last year, Apple introduced Emergency SOS, which allows the iPhone 14 to connect to satellites to send emergency calls and texts. Now, Qualcomm has unveiled its own satellite messaging features for Android phones. It’s called Snapdragon Satellite, and it will allow devices equipped with the company’s X70 modems to connect to satellites in order to send messages when no cellular signal is available.

The feature, which is expected to be available on phones beginning in the second half of 2023, is the result of a partnership with longtime satellite phone maker Iridium. Thanks to the partnership, Android phones equipped with the X70 modem and Qualcomm’s SOC will be able to connect to Iridium's satellite network for off-grid texting in both emergency and non-emergency situations.

As with much of Qualcomm’s tech, exactly how these features will look and feel will largely be determined by the individual phone makers. Device makers will have considerable flexibility in terms of how they implement satellite messaging, particularly for person-to-person texts. But while we don’t know exactly how it will look when it launches, Qualcomm offered an early look at the technology at CES, which provided a pretty good idea of what to expect in terms of functionality.

Karissa Bell / Engadget

As with Apple’s Emergency SOS, you’ll need to be outside with a clear view of the sky in order to use satellite messaging. When enabled, an on-screen message will offer guidance for where to point your device in order to connect to a satellite.

The demo we saw wasn’t exactly an off-grid location. The desert campground about 30 minutes away from the Las Vegas Strip may have looked the part, but it had full 5G service during our visit. However, Qualcomm reps demonstrated the process for connecting to satellites and it only took a few seconds to move the phone into position. And they claimed connecting in a true off-grid environment should be nearly as seamless.

Once connected to a satellite, the demo devices were able to send text messages to a preset whitelist of contacts. Qualcomm says that feature will remain in place to ensure spam texts won't clog up the satellite networks. However, the company noted that OEMs could make the messaging feel more like a traditional messaging app than the demo interface we previewed. 

There are a few other limitations compared with standard messaging apps. Satellite messages are limited to 140 bytes or about 160 characters, making them more like an old-school SMS than what you’d expect with modern apps. And you can’t send photos or videos via satellite.

Karissa Bell / Engadget

It’s also worth noting that unlike Apple’s Emergency SOS, Qualcomm intends Snapdragon Satellite to be used for non-emergency messaging as well. That could make the Android version a little more useful as you could use satellite messaging to stay in touch with family and friends in areas where you’d normally be out of reach. However, there will likely be additional charges associated with non-emergency texts so you’ll probably still want to moderate your usage of the feature. (Qualcomm declined to speculate on how much these messages might cost, but it seems safe to assume these messages will be costlier than a typical SMS.)

Also, unlike Apple’s satellite communication features, which also allows people to make emergency voice calls, Snapdragon Satellite only allows for emergency texts, not calls. For truly urgent situations, the company has partnered with Garmin, which makes a satellite-based emergency communication device of its own called inReach. That means emergency texts will be routed to the same team that handles SOS calls from inReach devices.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get a lot of specifics about when we’ll see phones with Snapdragon Satellite hit shelves, or how many devices could have these capabilities. For now, Samsung says it expects to see satellite-ready phones from “multiple” OEMs starting in the second half of 2023. At the same time, that doesn’t mean the features are guaranteed for all Android phones with an X70 modem and Qualcomm SOC. According to Qualcomm, that’s because X70-equipped phones launching before the second half of the year don’t have all the necessary hardware to support Snapdragon Satellite connectivity.

But, now that we know the hardware requirements, in the coming months we should begin to get a better idea of which devices will have the satellite messaging capabilities.