The satellite space race is heating up—and China sees it as the next battlefield in the mobile communications contest. Meanwhile, markets overreact to Tesla’s announcement of rare earths-free motors, Beijing cracks down on domestic lithium mining, and Britain’s salad crisis highlights food security concerns. Plus, banger factory activity in China, the opposite in the US, and sobering inflation news in Europe.
Chinese media reports increasingly treat satellite connections as the next realm of competition in mobile communications. “The next smartphone battlefield will be in the skies,” notes the tech outlet PingWest. “The battlefield for cell phone manufacturers has escalated from 5G to satellite communications, which is, in essence, a battle for satellite resources,” notes 36Kr, another tech site.
And this week, Chinese phone makers got a leg up on satellite connections thanks to Qualcomm. The US semiconductor maker announced partnerships with Honor, Oppo, and Xiaomi to bring satellite communications to their smartphones. The satellite connection is based on Qualcomm’s high-end Snapdragon chipset. (An aside: This does not exactly support the narrative that recent export controls and the CHIPS Act are creating a semiconductor decoupling between the US and China.)
The news comes on the heels of a flurry of other, recent developments in satellite-enabled phones. In September, Huawei unveiled one-way satellite texting for its Mate 50 phone, powered by BeiDou, China’s GPS alternative. Days later, Apple showcased two-way satellite texting for iPhone 14s, enabled by the US satellite company Globalstar. Apple last week increased its investment in Globalstar, investing 252 million USD in the form of a loan as prepayment for future satellite services for iPhones.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Bullitt last month revealed its new phone with satellite texting capabilities facilitated by IoT connectivity startup Skylo, British satellite service provider Inmarsat, and chipsets from Taiwan’s MediTek. Samsung has also secured a modem, to be integrated with its Exynos chip, that enables direct-to-phone satellite communications.