Iridium, Qualcomm end satellite-to-phone partnership

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A Qualcomm sign is pictured at the Mobile World Congress in Shanghai.
Aly Song | Reuters

U.S. semiconductor giant Qualcomm ended its partnership with satellite communications company Iridium to provide satellite-to-phone services, Iridium announced on Thursday.

Iridium stock fell more than 8% in after-hours trading from its close at $37.14 a share

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The company said that while the parties “successfully developed and demonstrated the technology,” smartphone makers “have not included the technology in their devices,” leading Qualcomm to end the agreement.

The move comes as major players pursue the nascent market to connect unmodified phones directly to satellites. A number of smartphone makers, service providers and satellite companies have partnered on projects including Apple, Iridium, SpaceX, AT&T, T-Mobile, AST SpaceMobile and more.

Apple is spending heavily to provide its “Emergency SOS with Satellite” service, which it rolled out with iPhone 14 models.

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Qualcomm said in a statement smartphone makers have “indicated a preference towards standards-based solutions” for satellite-to-phone connectivity.

“We expect to continue to collaborate with Iridium on standards-based solutions while discontinuing efforts on the proprietary solution that was introduced earlier this year,” the company said.

Iridium noted in its release that the end of its agreement with Qualcomm allows it to re-engage with others who are working on satellite-to-cell projects. Iridium said the end of the agreements does not affect its full-year 2023 financial guidance.

“While I’m disappointed that this partnership didn’t bear immediate fruit, we believe the direction of the industry is clear toward increased satellite connectivity in consumer devices,” Iridium CEO Matt Desch said in a statement.

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