Combined satellite-cellular communications will become a reality for consumers, enterprise, government and public safety users with an agreement announced by Mobile Satellite Ventures LP (MSV), a subsidiary of SkyTerra Communications, ICO Global Communications, and Qualcomm.
The agreement will enable devices to have ubiquitous mobile communications coverage from anywhere in North America, including areas where traditional cellular service is currently unavailable or unreliable.
Qualcomm will integrate satellite and cellular communication technology in select multi-mode mobile baseband chips. As a result, for the first time ever, satellite connectivity will be enabled in mass-market wireless handsets and devices. The same mobile chipsets forming the heart of handsets and other devices will enable handset vendors to produce satellite-capable devices at comparable scale and cost.
“This agreement marks a truly historic milestone in the evolution of the wireless industry,” remarked Alex Good, chairman, CEO and president of SkyTerra. “For the first time, satellite communications can achieve economies of scale traditionally enjoyed in the cellular marketplace today. Combined with our powerful next-generation satellites, Qualcomm’s technology will enable mobile communications between terrestrial and satellite network layers using ordinary mobile devices.”
“One of the cornerstone features of ICO mim (mobile interactive media), and of all future ICO MSS ATC products, is satellite interactivity, and this agreement enables two-way satellite services for a wide variety of mainstream wireless devices,” noted Tim Bryan, ICO’s chief executive officer. “Through our current contract with Qualcomm on satellite technology we have seen the depth of experience that they bring to this project. In addition, we look forward to working with our colleagues at MSV as we collaboratively develop this new technology.”
Qualcomm will develop a satellite protocol and include it in the firmware of select upcoming Qualcomm multi-mode baseband chips. Qualcomm will also support the L- and S-Band frequencies, in which MSV and ICO operate, in select RF processors.
The new chips are expected to be available beginning in 2010. Qualcomm will sell and support its hybrid mobile satellite services (MSS)/terrestrial chipsets to mobile device vendors in the same manner it does today. This will enable terminal OEMs to provide a full range of handhelds and mobile computing devices capable of terrestrial connectivity with 3GPP and 3GPP2 technologies across the L- and S-Bands, as well as a wide range of existing mobile terrestrial bands.
“The integrated satellite-terrestrial market presents an exciting opportunity with more than 100 MHz of spectrum potentially addressable on a global basis,” added Good. “We anticipate that additional operators will take advantage of satellite data optimized technology as the systems evolve.”
In connection with entering into the agreement, subject to certain rights of termination, MSV and ICO have entered into a mutual non-assertion agreement with respect to relevant aspects of their respective patent portfolios as well as certain other related agreements to the Qualcomm development effort.