iPhone 14 radios to near-Earth satellites in emergencies

Apple’s new smartphones are reaching for the stars. With the iPhone an emergency call can be made to a satellite network if you are in a dead zone because there is no terrestrial mobile network. The device replaces a satellite phone that adventurers, world travelers or journalists carry with them in crisis areas.

During the launch of its new iPhone 14 models last week Apple has announced that it will work with a satellite network operator that was initially not named. It’s Globalstar, which has been on the market since 1998 and has a few dozen low-Earth satellites in operation. Low-flying satellites at altitudes of between 800 and 1400 kilometers require a weaker signal than higher-flying geostationary satellites. However, more satellites are needed to cover the earth because they are only visible in the sky for a short time at a time, and the iPhone satellite radio operator will also notice this, more on that later.

Globalstar is currently only available to American customers and the satellites do not communicate directly with each other but via ground stations. That’s why a satellite simultaneously in view of the end device and a ground station. Areas without a ground station are not covered. Globalstar currently does not have coverage for Africa and India, parts of Oceania and the polar regions.

The regulatory authorities also want to have a say

Since the new iPhone 14 uses Globalstar’s satellite frequencies, there is no need for regulatory approvals. Globalstar is permitted to use a narrow 2.4 gigahertz band for its mobile satellite service worldwide and terrestrially for small LTE cells. However, the bandwidth of only 11.5 megahertz with a maximum data rate of just 256 kbit/s already indicates what Apple during the press conference in Cupertino: The iPhone 14 user calling for help can communicate with an emergency call center with just short text modules. Voice telephony is not provided. In addition, you have to “target” the respective satellite in advance, a schematic position display on the display helps, but one thing is clear: If you call for help with the iPhone 14 via satellite, you still have to be able to carry out a few operating steps on the iPhone with a clear mind .

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