Emergency SOS via satellite will be available on the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro this month, according to Apple.
The feature will enable the phones to connect to emergency services even when they are outside of cellular and Wi-Fi coverage. Apple says that the feature is the result of a $450 million investment from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund. A majority of that funding went to Globalstar, a satellite service based in Covington, LA.
Apple’s Emergency SOS feature uses special spectrum in the L and S bands. One of Globalstar’s 24 low earth orbiting (LEO) satellites will receive a user message. The satellite will relay the message to customized ground stations strategically located around the globe.
Once received on the ground, the message will be relayed to the appropriate emergency service or to a relay center with emergency specialists trained by Apple.
The ground stations use high-power antennas designed and manufactured for Apple by Cobham Satcom in Concord, CA. The antennas were installed in Globalstar’s new operations in Nevada and Hawaii and existing facilities in Texas, Alaska, Florida and Puerto Rico.
In addition to communicating with emergency services via text, iPhone customers can use the Find My app to share their location via satellite.
“Emergency SOS via satellite is a perfect example of how American ingenuity and technology can save lives,” Apple’s CEO Jeff Williams said in a company update. “We are proud this service is enabled by leading US companies, and that our users can explore off-the-grid areas knowing they are still within reach of emergency services if they are in need.”
This is the third piece of news this year on satellite-to-cell phone connectivity:
In September, the FCC awarded a commercial license to Lynk Global for a service that provides such linkage. The company said it would launch a constellation of satellites by the end of the year.
SpaceX and T-Mobile said in August that they will use a slice of T-Mobile’s mid-band spectrum to support connectivity between cellphones and SpaceX’s LEO satellites.