As Apple’s iPhone 14 event is getting closer, rumors continue to swirl around the phone’s potential ability to provide emergency communications via a satellite network. On Monday, famous analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that Apple had “completed hardware testing for this feature” with the iPhone 14, but would have to negotiate a business model with carriers if it wants to include it.
According to Kuo, “whether the iPhone 14 will offer satellite communication service depends on the ability of Apple and carriers to settle the business model.” Kuo says that this hurdle may have delayed the feature once already – according to him, the hardware that would have allowed the iPhone 13 to communicate with satellites was finished, but Apple could not understand the commercial end with the satellites. operators. Kuo and others famous predicted that the feature could appear in the 13th, which did not happen.
According to Kuo’s latest prediction, the iPhone will “eventually” have satellite communications, but it’s “difficult to predict precisely when.” While the feature is now suspended for negotiations with carriers, which might be easier to keep secret, it makes sense that it’s harder to track its progress by analyzing the supply chain or beta code.
Carriers may have an incentive to play tough with Apple, given their interest in offering their own satellite connectivity features and plans. Last Thursday, T-Mobile announced that it was working with SpaceX to launch its own satellite emergency communications system, which it says will work with many existing 5G-enabled phones. Meanwhile, AT&T is working with a company called AST SpaceMobile, which aims to provide broadband by transmitting it to phones via satellite. Verizon also has in partnership with Amazon’s Kuiper Satellite Project. However, it appears to be focused on providing service to remote cell towers where it would not be practical to run fiber or cable.
Since satellite networks typically operate around the world, Apple may also need to strike deals with international carriers and possibly governments.
Harold Feld, an analyst at Public Knowledge, doesn’t necessarily think operators will see this as a conflict of interest, given how different the technology is and how much in the future things like ‘overhead coverage and beyond” from T-Mobile could be – the company says testing should begin by the end of next year. “There’s no reason, from the carrier’s perspective, for this to be a problem unless they have some kind of exclusive agreement with SpaceX not to use any other satellite service,” a- he declared. He noted, however, “it’s kind of hard to know without knowing the trade deals.”
Given Kuo and others’ predictions that Apple is working with a company that already has its own satellite communications network, it seems unlikely that this is a situation where Apple would need technologies or spectrum rights from operators. However, during its presentation, T-Mobile said it should work with messaging app developers to make their systems compatible with its satellite technology – if Apple wants to use the carrier’s SMS and voice systems in its satellite communication function, it could be a similar situation.
Feld offered some ideas on details Apple might have to work out with carriers. “It’s something that carriers could potentially want to include in their advertising, in which case there may be negotiations with Apple about who is credited with it and the nature of their advertising, whether carriers can include it in their cards. cover,” he said. “There are a lot of things that come into play.” Even things like whose name is displayed when the phone connects to satellites instead of cell towers could play into the negotiations.
Another question that could delay things – between the carrier, Apple, the satellite provider and iPhone users, who ends up paying for satellite messaging, and how? “In the case of T-Mobile and SpaceX, it’s pretty simple. It seems, at least from what little we know, that it would be up front for T-Mobile with T-Mobile doing the billing, which is how carriers traditionally like it. They like to maintain the relationship with the customer and include everything on one invoice,” Feld said. , this can be a point of contention with operators.”
He also said that, from a technical and legal point of view, Apple could include the chip without the cooperation of operators. “Apple could always say, ‘Yes, we’re putting this chip in. What are you going to do, kick us out of your network?'” Feld doesn’t think that will happen, though. “But carriers are the guys you play with long term. You want to make sure your dealings with them are… friendly, maybe that’s too much to hope for, but that you have a good business relationship with the carriers, that there are no surprises, that they get along.