Qualcomm said today that it will build a chipset to offer combined cellular and satellite radios in one handset. It hopes to offer them in 2010. This is a boost for the struggling satellite companies and offers up the potential for a small phone that is […]

Qualcomm said today that it will build a chipset to offer combined cellular and satellite radios in one handset. It hopes to offer them in 2010. This is a boost for the struggling satellite companies and offers up the potential for a small phone that is integrated with existing CDMA cellular networks.

To build a successful satellite business a company needs access to spectrum, money to launch the satellites and a convenient handset at a reasonable price. During the ’90s this last hurdle was never really surmounted because handsets were big and couldn’t switch over to cell networks. It looked like that would be the case again for a new generation of satellite firms pushing a combined terrestrial and satellite network. Qualcomm’s chipsets and the willingness of cellular carriers to accept handoffs from satellite networks could change all that.

Qualcomm is working with Mobile Satellite Ventures and ICO Communications to provide chipsets for the L and S bands of spectrum. The chips will work in those bands as well as with the CDMA and CDMA2000 standards pushed by Qualcomm. The CDMA technology will limit the phone’s global reach, as GSM is more popular than CDMA outside North America. But the news adds momentum to hopes of a satellite and terrestrial network that can provide wireless broadband anywhere. Taking that momentum beyond CDMA and getting handset makers on board are the next steps.

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  1. Stacey, add mobile digital TV (DVB-SH), and you have what Dublin-based Solaris Mobile .com is working on for Europe, with Alcatel technology. Now that mobile digital broadcast TV (DVB-H) is essentially dead in Europe, mobile TV, radio and internet over satellite might be getting a chance in 2009. Would be interesting to read your story on their current status.

  2. Stacey,

    The post above got me thinking a little bit, but I may be off:

    Since Verizon and AT&T are both rolling out fiber and have their own TV services, does it make sense for traditional DBS TV providers to work with Clearwire so that signals could be switched between a WiMax connection and a satellite connection (inside the home and for mobile devices) similar to what Qualcomm is encouraging between satellite and CDMA? I’m not sure if traditional DBS TV providers could even switch off with any type of cellular network – I may be off, is it safe to assume your post and referencing articles are only suggesting hand-off between a cellular network and an IP-enabled satellite network? If so, what would it take for the traditional DBS TV providers to switch to an underlying IP-based satellite network such as TerreStar?

    Also, understand that Clearwire has already signed deals with some of the largest cable companies to white label a mobile service for them, but if the competitive hurdle was overcome, would it be possible for Clearwire to pair up with an IP-enabled satellite network? Then consumers could potentially have 3 well equipped, next generation quadruple play broadband packages: a WiMax+Satellite combination that offers quadruple play (maybe some sort of set-top box/router/godbox that accepts both IP-based satellite and WiMax signals and mobile phones that do the same), a WiMax+Cable solution (such as Clearwire and their cable companies or what Cox is doing independently with its recently purchased spectrum – again, with similar set-top box/router/godbox that takes cable+WiMax signals and mobile WiMax phones that could one day use cable infrastructure as backhaul), and a fiber+LTE solution from Verizon and ATT.

    Does any of that sound reasonable?

  3. Why There Won’t Be Broadband Competition Anytime Soon – GigaOM Friday, September 26, 2008

    [...] As we said in our recent story on efforts to create wireless broadband using the spectrum between digital TV channels, the devil is in the details. Through rulemaking or setting incredibly high reserves, the FCC can cripple any wireless broadband competition. That means a network could look like it might happen, but get bogged down or end up useless. Through constant delays the FCC can hamper the creation of an alternative network, as it’s doing in the case of M2Z, and did all the way back in 2003 when it waffled over approving the ATC rules that allow a satellite company to offer both terrestrial and satellite coverage. That was supposed to bring wireless broadband competition too. And it may…more than half a decade later. [...]

  4. Satellite Player Skyterra Ready to Try Again Thursday, December 25, 2008

    [...] two game-changing years. The company will launch a new satellite in 2009, and in 2010, it will see Qualcomm integrate radios into its cellular chips that can communicate with Skyterra’s satelli…. Skyterra may also complete a merger with Inmarsat, if regulators sign off on it. This all means [...]

  5. The Ominous Return of the Satellite Phone Thursday, May 21, 2009

    [...] CTO, Dennis Matheson disagrees. He says the launch of chips from Qualcomm next year will enable handsets and data cards that can deliver LTE-speeds in the 2 GHz spectrum that [...]

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