Google to Expand Satellite Connectivity Reach with Android 15; Could This Be a Game Changer for NTN Mobile?

Subscribe To Download This Insight

By Victor Xu | 2Q 2024 | IN-7338

In March 2024, in the second developer preview of Android 15, Google revealed its highly-anticipated satellite connectivity feature. This ABI Insight delves into the key aspects of the Android 15's Satellite Communication (SatCom) feature, the potential impact of Google's satellite messaging service, and the commercial opportunities within the Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN)-mobile market.

Registered users can unlock up to five pieces of premium content each month.

Log in or register to unlock this Insight.

 

Android 15 and Satellite Messaging: A New Era of Commuication

NEWS


Android's satellite messaging support has been in the works for about a year now, and it now sounds like Google will be reportedly adding support for satellite messaging in Android 15. The new Operating System (OS) is said to include notifications and better status bar indicators for when users are connected to a satellite link. It will also provide Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for applications to detect when a device is connected to a satellite network, and it will then allow the messaging apps to utilize the satellite connectivity feature for sending and receiving messages. Android 15 will allow third-party Short Message Service (SMS) and Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) apps to use satellite connectivity; however, advanced messaging features using Rich Communication Service (RCS) will initially only be available in pre-installed apps. While the primary focus of the Android Satellite Communication (SatCom) feature is text messaging at present, there is potential for future expansion to include voice calls and data transfer as the SatCom technology matures.

Android 15: The Mechanics of Satellite Messaging

Android 15's satellite connectivity will primarily focus on assisting users in emergency situations when they find themselves without cellular coverage. A unique satellite User Interface (UI) will appear when emergency services are triggered in a no-network zone, and it will then guide the user in locating and establishing a connection with an available satellite. This process will likely involve angling the phone and moving it in the required direction instructed by the UI to maintain the best connection. Once connected to a satellite, the user will have the option to alert designated emergency contacts, and to also answer predefined questions, with the information presumably being forwarded to emergency responders so that emergency services can be expedited. Compared to Apple's Emergency SOS via satellite service, where the only option is to contact emergency services, the Android 15 SatCom feature will allow users to message any contact on their phone, not just emergency responders.

Initially, this feature is expected to be made possible through a partnership between Google, T-Mobile, and SpaceX. T-Mobile's "Direct to Cell" technology will enable compatible Android phones to connect to SpaceX’s Starlink Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites without extra hardware. It is anticipated that the Android SatCom feature will be exclusive to Google's upcoming Pixel models, such as the Pixel 9 and Pixel Fold 2, which are expected to feature the new Exynos 5400 modem featuring support for 5G Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTNs). The SatCom feature in Android is also expected to be scheduled for an official release in late October 2024, which would coincide with the launch of Android 15 and the Pixel 9 series. It is most likely that given the complexities involved, the Android SatCom feature will initially debut in the United States.

The Potential Impact of Android 15's Satellite Messaging Feature

IMPACT


The introduction of satellite messaging capabilities in Google’s upcoming Android 15 could potentially have a significant impact in several key areas:

  • Renewed Interest in Satellite and Space Technology: The integration of satellite connectivity in Android 15 is likely to be powered by partnerships with satellite providers, such as the reported collaboration with SpaceX's Starlink satellite network. News of such major partnerships between large multi-nationals could drive further investment and innovation in the satellite and space technology industries, as they seek to expand their capabilities and address the growing demand for ubiquitous communication solutions.
  • Safety and Emergency Support: The satellite messaging feature in Android 15 could have a profound impact on emergency services and disaster response. By allowing users to communicate directly with emergency contacts and services, even in areas without cellular connectivity, the feature could improve emergency response times and enhance the ability to coordinate rescue efforts. This could be particularly beneficial for outdoor enthusiasts, travelers, and those living in remote areas, as the Android 15 will provide users with a sense of security knowing that they could reach out for help even in the most remote locations.
  • Potential Partnerships and Ecosystem Integration: Early information suggests that Google's implementation of satellite messaging in Android 15 will likely be powered by a partnership with T-Mobile and SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network. This integration could lead to further ecosystem-level collaborations, which could potentially expand the satellite connectivity capabilities and services. For example, more emergency services providers such as Garmin, FocusPoint International, Intrado, etc. could partner with both satellite operators and devices manufacturers for SatCom features. Additionally, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) could also collaborate within this ecosystem to enhance their network coverage and expand roaming capabilities.

Overall, the introduction of satellite messaging in Android 15 represents a significant step forward in mobile communication technology. By offering Android users the ability to stay connected in remote areas and expand their communication options, this feature has the potential to revolutionize the way people stay in touch, especially in emergency situations or when traditional networks are unavailable.

The Lucrative Orbit: The Business Case for the NTN Mobile Market

RECOMMENDATIONS


The integration of SatCom into consumer mobile devices could be a potential game-changer with massive market potential. ABI Research forecasts the NTN handset segment to surpass US$228 billion in revenue by 2030, boasting a staggering 36% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR). For more details, refer to ABI Research's Satellite Communication Terminals & CPE Shipments: NTN market data (MD-SATTN-101). This market expansion will present lucrative opportunities for MNOs, device manufacturers, and satellite service providers.

ABI Research highlights three key opportunities for market participants ready to seize the growth potential of SatCom and NTN-mobile connectivity:

  • Device Development: Designing smartphones and wearables with integrated satellite functionality will see higher demand if the SatCom market takes off. The market potential for specialized devices such as rugged SatCom devices tailored to extreme adventurers, remote workers, and industries operating in areas with limited cellular coverage (e.g., logistics, mining, forestry, oil & gas) would also be another potential growth market for SatCom devices.
  • Network Infrastructure and Partnerships: MNOs can differentiate themselves by partnering with satellite companies to provide seamless hybrid networks. This would ensure connectivity even in underserved areas, and it would enhance customer loyalty and increase market share for the MNOs. New business opportunities in building and operating specialized satellite networks to meet the increasing demand for wider coverage and reliable SatCom services will also be another potential opportunity.
  • New Revenue Streams: While the initial satellite messaging feature may be offered as a free service, market participants could explore opportunities to monetize the technology in the future. Potential new revenue streams could include premium subscription models, integration with enterprise communication solutions, higher-tiered services such as video streaming and downloads, or the development of specialized satellite-based services.

Services

Companies Mentioned