Sponsored By

2023 in review: Satellite direct-to-device race heats up

The direct-to-device (D2D) market took off this year as companies like SpaceX, AT&T, Iridium and Qualcomm looked at ways to connect phones to satellites. However, the sector is still in its infancy.

Mike Dano

December 20, 2023

2 Min Read
Woman uses satellite internet connection on roof of a house
(Source: RossHelen editorial/Alamy Stock Photo)

The race to space is on. And plenty of companies are vying for the prize.

Apple kicked off the race with its introduction of the iPhone 14 in 2022. The gadget allowed users to connect directly to Globalstar satellites in locations where they could not get a terrestrial cell signal. Apple targeted the service only at emergency messaging, but the technology promises to support much more eventually, including calling and potentially data services.

That tantalizing opportunity – 5G from space – has attracted a wide range of players. For example, T-Mobile hopes to use SpaceX satellites to offer space-based connections to its entire customer base. Meanwhile, satellite companies like Iridium and Viasat are hoping to ink direct-to-device (D2D) deals with handset makers, network operators and others. And plenty of startups – from AST SpaceMobile to Skylo – are also playing in the market.

However, the overall opportunity remains unclear. For example, Qualcomm recently bowed out of its phone-to-satellite deal with Iridium due to a lack of interest in the technology from Android smartphone makers.

Regardless, the emergence of the D2D opportunity was certainly a major event in 2023. Catch up on all the major developments below:

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like