iPhone 13 Satellite Support Rumor Disputed, Likely for Additional 5G Spectrum

Over the weekend, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo sent out a research note suggesting that the iPhone 13 was "likely" to support low earth orbit satellite communication, a feature that would allow iPhone users to make calls and send messages when cellular and WiFi connections are unavailable.

iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2
In this note, Kuo said that Apple would use a "customized" Qualcomm X60 baseband chip that supports satellite communications. He also claimed that Apple would work with Qualcomm partner Globalstar on the basis that Qualcomm is implementing support for Globalstar's n53 band in a future modem.

Almost immediately, mobile analysts and those with other expertise in mobile devices and communications began disputing Kuo's report as inaccurate.

Globalstar is indeed a satellite company that is working with Qualcomm, but the n53 band that Kuo mentions is terrestrial spectrum. In February, Globalstar announced that Qualcomm's next-generation X65 modem would offer global 5G n53 support in an effort to expand Globalstar's "terrestrial spectrum commercialization."

The n53 band is a variant of Globalstar's terrestrial Band 53, which is already in use for 4G and 5G private networks. Nokia, for example, is using Band 53 for a private wireless network at the Port of Seattle. Globalstar is using the mid-band spectrum for partner companies that would otherwise not have access to licensed spectrum.

Globalstar does not market or offer Band 53 or n53 spectrum for satellite communications - it is solely for terrestrial coverage. Satellite to terrestrial communication is not a function of the spectrum that Kuo mentioned, and it's not approved for that kind of use.

It's worth noting that Qualcomm is partnering with Globalstar for Band 53 in the X65 modem, which is not the modem that Apple is using this year. Apple is using the X60, but it seems that there may be a special variant designed for Apple that does support n53. That doesn't mean the ‌iPhone 13‌ will get satellite communication functionality, and signs suggest that this instead points toward the possibility of 5G connectivity improvements.

Many people have pointed out the issue between Kuo's prediction and the actual function of the n53 band. PCMag's Sascha Segan, for example, says that while the X60 may have the support for Globalstar's Band 53, that in no way means that it's going to communicate with satellites. Other Twitter users have pointed out similar issues, and have provided more technical details for those interested.

Kuo often has accurate insight into Apple's plans, but there seems to have been some kind of miscommunication or misunderstanding with his note to investors. It's possible that Kuo believes that the X60 will support some other spectrum that's not n53, but given that he mentions n53 specifically and the upcoming Qualcomm X65 modem supports n53 and not spectrum that would enable low earth orbit satellite communications, it seems very unlikely.

There have been rumors that Apple has a "secret" satellite team working on ways to use satellites for communication purposes. Apple has a dozen aerospace, satellite, and antenna design engineers working on the project, Bloomberg said in 2019.

Apple's aim with the project is to reduce dependence on wireless carriers and improve coverage, and Apple at the time was said to be hoping to produce results "within five years."

That timeline would see Apple launching some kind of possible satellite communication feature around 2024.

Related Roundup: iPhone 13
Buyer's Guide: iPhone 13 (Caution)
Related Forum: iPhone

Top Rated Comments

diddl14 Avatar
10 months ago
Well, as the MacRumors original author bio states:
“Based in Hertfordshire, England, Hartley is keenly interested in history and creative writing.

A tech writer should maybe do a bit of research before publishing..
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gjdarbo Avatar
10 months ago
We could really use satellite support on iPhones in Louisiana right now...
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GMShadow Avatar
10 months ago

He's actually well respected in the tech industry.

https://www.macrumors.com/guide/ming-chi-kuo/

https://appleinsider.com/inside/ming-chi-kuo
Yes, it's funny how almost all the articles where he's mentioned note that he is a "well-respected Apple analyst".

Almost as if they're being fed copy by someone with a massive ego and desire to increase his client base.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheYayAreaLiving ? Avatar
10 months ago
Woah! Mr. Kuo gave spoke too soon and gave us the future roadmap. Imagine how handy this would be in a disaster or for people hiking out in the wilderness or people being stuck in the middle of the ocean.

I have a feeling this feature will be exclusive to 2022 iPhone.

Apple seriously needs to offer it's own cell tower/carrier.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Realityck Avatar
10 months ago

Apple's aim with the project is to reduce dependence on wireless carriers and improve coverage, and Apple at the time was said to be hoping to produce results "within five years."

That timeline would see Apple launching some kind of possible satellite communication feature around 2024.
Can hear the silence from the wireless carriers as what to do? o_O
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mrjetsondc Avatar
10 months ago
Check me if I’m wrong but are satellites not terrible at communication in bad weather?

Like what good would this be if I’m in the middle of the woods, in a house full of bears. If it is bad weather, how exactly can I call for help? I just ate a lot of porridge and these bears look mad ?.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

iPhone SE 2022 Red Feature

Last-Minute 5G iPhone SE Details Leaked By Reliable Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo

Friday March 4, 2022 5:19 am PST by
Renowned Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has shared six "predictions" for the third-generation iPhone SE, providing several new insights into details about the device. Repeating information from previous rumors, Kuo claims that the third-generation iPhone SE will feature the same design as the current model, the A15 Bionic chip, and 5G connectivity, but there are several new details. Some ...
Apple 5G Modem Feature Triad

Qualcomm Expecting to Supply Just 20% of 2023 iPhone Modems As Apple Prepares to Launch Its Own Chips

Tuesday November 16, 2021 9:18 am PST by
Qualcomm is preparing for the launch of Apple's own modem chips, which will cut into Qualcomm's modem business starting in 2023. At today's Investor Day event, Qualcomm CFO Akash Palkhiwala said that Qualcomm expects to supply just 20 percent of Apple's modem chips in 2023. If that's an accurate estimate, it means that 2022 will be the last year that Qualcomm enjoys a modem monopoly in...
Apple 5G Modem Feature

Apple-Designed 5G Modem to Be Separate From A-Series Chip, Again Rumored to Debut in 2023 iPhones

Thursday November 18, 2021 4:13 am PST by
Apple will debut its rumored custom-designed 5G modem in 2023's iPhone models and the component will not be integrated into the device's A-series chip, DigiTimes reports. In paywalled report published earlier today, sources speaking to DigiTimes said that 2022 will be the last year when Qualcomm supplies all of the modems in iPhone models. Thereafter, iPhones are expected to begin featuring...
Spring Colors WWDC22

Apple Introduces New Spring Colors for iPhone Cases and Apple Watch Bands

Tuesday March 8, 2022 11:58 am PST by
Following its first event of the year today, Apple has introduced new colors for the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro MagSafe cases and Apple Watch bands for its Spring 2022 collection. The new case colors for the iPhone 13 Pro include Lemon Zest, Blue Fog, Eucalyptus, and Nectarine. All the cases are $49 and available starting today. The iPhone 13 MagSafe case shares the same colors. For...
blushark apple watch bands

MacRumors Giveaway: Win an Apple Watch Series 7 and Band From BluShark

Friday March 11, 2022 9:20 am PST by
For this week's giveaway, we've teamed up with BluShark to offer MacRumors readers a chance to win an aluminum Apple Watch Series 7 and a matching BluShark Apple Watch band to go along with it. BluShark has a wide array of Apple Watch bands available in materials that include Leather, Silicone, Cordura, Knit Weave, Canvas, and an AlphaPremier seatbelt weave. All of the bands are affordable,...
qualcomm snapdragon x70

Qualcomm Unveils 5G Snapdragon X70 Modem That May Appear in 2023 iPhones

Tuesday March 1, 2022 2:26 am PST by
Qualcomm has unveiled its new 5G Snapdragon X70 modem, which is likely to be the last Qualcomm modem to be used by Apple in its iPhones before it switches to in-house custom-designed chips. Qualcomm says its latest 5G modem for smartphones includes "the world's first 5G AI processor integrated in a 5G Modem-RF System," which is supposed to increase the average download and uplink speeds on...
iphone 5g mmwave

U.S. Airlines Warn of 'Catastrophic' Crisis With Impending 5G Rollout, AT&T and Verizon Agree to Delay Around Airports

Tuesday January 18, 2022 10:35 am PST by
Verizon and AT&T's upcoming rollout of new C-Band 5G technology could cause chaos and lead to widespread delays of passenger and cargo flights, major U.S. airlines said on Monday in a letter sent to the White House National Economic Council, the FAA, and the FCC (via Reuters). "Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially...
Apple 5G Modem Feature Triad

TSMC to Begin Producing Apple-Designed 5G Modems for iPhones in 2023

Tuesday November 23, 2021 7:37 pm PST by
Apple's main chip manufacturing partner TSMC will beginning producing Apple's first in-house 5G modem chips for the iPhone in 2023, according to a report from Nikkei Asia. The move, which has been under development for several years and enhanced by Apple's 2019 acquisition of the majority of Intel's modem business, will allow Apple to shift away from Qualcomm as a supplier for the important chips ...

Popular Stories

iPhone 14 Pro Purple Front and Back MacRumors Exclusive

iPhone 14 Pro Renders Highlight Multiple Design Changes

Wednesday May 25, 2022 8:56 am PDT by
Leaker Jon Prosser today shared ostensibly accurate renders of the iPhone 14 Pro, providing the most accurate look yet at what the device could look like when it launches later this year. In the latest video on YouTube channel Front Page Tech, Prosser revealed renders of the iPhone 14 Pro made by Apple concept graphic designer Ian Zelbo, highlighting a range of specific design changes...
iPad Pro USB C Feature Coral

Deals: Apple's iPad Pro Reaches Up to $449 Off in Amazon's Latest Sales

Wednesday May 25, 2022 10:09 am PDT by
Amazon is marking down a wide variety of 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models this week, with prices starting as low as $749.00 for the 11-inch tablet. You'll find the full list of sales below, all of which can be found on Amazon. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep...
apple account card

Wallet App Now Supports Apple Account Cards on iOS 15.5

Wednesday May 25, 2022 5:01 pm PDT by
Apple appears to have recently updated the Wallet app to allow users to add an Apple Account Card, which displays the Apple credit balance associated with an Apple ID. If you receive an App Store or Apple Store gift card, for example, it is added to an Apple Account that was previously visible in the App Store and Apple Store apps. As of today, the Apple Account balance can also be added to...
iphone 13 pro max display bleen

iPhone 14 Max Reportedly Weeks Behind Schedule [Updated]

Thursday May 26, 2022 7:25 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 Max is currently behind schedule by around three weeks, according to Haitong International Securities analyst Jeff Pu. Yesterday, Nikkei Asia reported that at least one iPhone 14 model was three weeks behind schedule due to the impact of lockdowns on Apple's supply chains in China, but it was not clear which iPhone 14 model this related to. Now, Pu has clarified that the model...
iPhone 13 Always On Feature

iPhone 14 Pro Screen Refresh Rate Upgrade Could Allow for Always-On Display

Tuesday May 24, 2022 7:23 am PDT by
Last year's iPhone 13 Pro models were the first of Apple's smartphones to come with 120Hz ProMotion displays, and while the two iPhone 14 Pro models will continue to feature the technology, their screens could well boast expanded refresh rate variability this time round. To bring ProMotion displays to the ‌iPhone 13 Pro models‌, Apple adopted LTPO panel technology with variable refresh...
Apple Tap to Pay iPhone

Apple Stores Rolling Out iPhone-to-iPhone Contactless Payments Starting Today

Wednesday May 25, 2022 6:54 am PDT by
Apple in February unveiled a new "Tap to Pay on iPhone" feature that will allow compatible iPhones to accept payments via Apple Pay, contactless credit and debit cards, and other digital wallets, with no additional hardware required. Apple began testing the feature at its Apple Park Visitor Center earlier this month, and now Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has tweeted that the feature will begin...
apple tv 4k design green

Apple Releases tvOS 15.5.1 for Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K

Wednesday May 25, 2022 9:42 am PDT by
Apple today released tvOS 15.5.1, a minor update to the tvOS operating system that first launched in September 2021. tvOS 15.5.1 comes about 10 days after the launch of tvOS 15.5. tvOS 15.5.1 can be downloaded over the air on the Apple TV through the Settings app by going to System > Software Update. ‌‌‌‌‌‌Apple TV‌‌‌‌‌‌ owners who have automatic software updates...