Globalstar, the company behind the emergency SOS services on Apple's iPhones, is poised to make a significant entry into the Indian market. The American satellite communications firm has approached India’s Department of Telecommunications to launch its services, signalling the potential introduction of satellite communication (satcom) capabilities to Apple handsets in India soon.
What to know? As highlighted by a Hindu Businessline report, this development aligns with the rapid advancement in space technology, particularly in low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations, which are becoming the first monetizable businesses in the industry. With India’s space sector opening up, companies like OneWeb and Starlink are also targeting the Indian satcom market, eyeing to provide high-speed communication services to remote areas.
However, affordability remains a key challenge in the price-sensitive Indian market, especially for telephony. The equipment required for satellite services, as exemplified by Starlink’s access terminal, comes with a hefty price tag of about ₹1.6 lakh.
Apple has innovatively addressed this challenge by integrating satcom services directly into its handsets. In 2023, Apple announced that users of iPhone 14, 14 Pro, 15, and 15 Pro can access emergency SOS services using satcom in situations where they are off-grid, without mobile or Wi-Fi coverage. This service, offered in collaboration with Globalstar’s LEO network, however, is not yet available in India due to regulatory constraints.
Regulatory ease: The recent Telecommunication Bill 2023 eases the entry of private satellite companies into the Indian market, notably addressing the spectrum allocation issue. The decision by the Indian government to allocate satcom spectrum administratively marks a departure from the earlier telco-driven demand for spectrum auctions. This policy shift could enable services like Apple’s emergency SOS via satcom, greatly improving emergency communications in India.