Samsung unveils Exynos modem with support for 2-way communication over satellite
Samsung has joined the race to enable 2-way communication over satellite on smartphones. The upcoming Exynos Modem 5300 will allow users in very remote areas (or in disaster areas where utilities have been disabled) to communicate with the world using 5G Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN).
The new modem implements the 3GPP Release 17 standard to ensure interoperability with new telecommunications networks and hardware and software developed by smartphone manufacturers.
Here is an illustration of how NTN communication works. Your smartphone can send a message to a satellite (and “other non-ground vehicles”), which then sends the message down to a ground station, which in turn relays the message to the regular cellular network for other users to receive.
This is 2-way communication, so messages can also flow the other way. And it’s not just text either, in the future users will be able to send images and videos in high resolution via satellite.
This will of course be used for smartphones, but Samsung also sees applications in “urban air mobility” vehicles such as flying cars and drones. You don’t want them to lose connection mid-flight.
Anyway, Samsung also says it’s working on NarrowBand Internet of Things (NB-IoT) technology, which will eliminate the need for a separate high-powered antenna chip inside phones.
“Samsung aims to take the lead in promoting hybrid terrestrial-NTN communication ecosystems around the world in preparation for the arrival of 6G,” said Min Goo Kim, Executive Vice President of Communication Processor Development at Samsung Electronics. Samsung has been working on 6G for years now, and the South Korean government wants prototype 6G networks to be ready by 2026.
As for the here and now, in January Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon Satellite, which also aims to enable 2-way messaging over satellite for smartphones. We should start seeing the first such devices in the second half of this year. Incidentally, Qualcomm is also behind Apple’s satellite technology.