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 (Neutral)
Related Forum: iPhone

Top Rated Comments

diddl14 Avatar
20 weeks 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
20 weeks ago
We could really use satellite support on iPhones in Louisiana right now...
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GMShadow Avatar
20 weeks 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
20 weeks 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
20 weeks 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
20 weeks 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 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Kuo: iPhone 13 to Feature LEO Satellite Communications to Make Calls and Texts Without Cellular Coverage

Sunday August 29, 2021 7:39 am PDT by
The iPhone 13 will feature low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communication connectivity to allow users to make calls and send messages in areas without 4G or 5G coverage, according to the reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo explained that the iPhone 13 lineup will feature hardware that is able to connect to LEO satellites. If enabled with the relevant...
iPhone in Space

Unexpected iPhone 13 Rumor Hints at Satellite Feature That Android Can’t Match

Wednesday September 1, 2021 2:19 am PDT by
The iPhone 13 lineup will offer a revolutionary new feature that Android competitors have yet to be able to match, according to a late-stage report from the reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo explained that the iPhone 13 contains a customized Qualcomm X60 baseband chip that supports low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications. If enabled with the ...
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...
qualcomm snapdragon x65

Qualcomm's Snapdragon X65 Modem Upgraded With Wider mmWave Coverage Ahead of Inclusion in 2022 iPhones

Wednesday May 19, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
Qualcomm today announced it has upgraded its Snapdragon X65 5G modem with improved power efficiency and support for wider mmWave carriers, a key requirement ahead of the rollout of 5G mmWave networks in China. Specifically, the modem now supports wider 200MHz carrier bandwidth in the mmWave spectrum and mmWave in standalone (SA) mode, while new power-saving technologies part of Qualcomm 5G...
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...
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 ...
Apple 5G Modem Feature Triad

Apple Building Chip Team to Bring More Wireless Component Production In-House

Thursday December 16, 2021 10:30 am PST by
Apple is creating a new office that will focus on wireless chip production as the company works to bring more of its chip development in-house, reports Bloomberg. Apple is hiring a few dozen engineers for an office in Southern California to develop components that may eventually replace parts that are currently sourced from companies like Broadcom, Skyworks, and Qualcomm. The office is...
Apple 5G Modem Feature

Kuo: Apple-Designed 5G Modem May Debut in iPhones as Early as 2023

Sunday May 9, 2021 10:02 pm PDT by
Apple plans to adopt its own custom-designed 5G baseband chip starting with the 2023 iPhones, meaning it'll no longer need to rely on Qualcomm to supply the 5G cellular modem for the iPhone, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in an investors note obtained by MacRumors. According to Kuo, Apple plans to include its own custom-designed 5G baseband chip starting with the launch of the 2023...

Popular Stories

iPhone 14 Mock pill and hole thumb

ProMotion Now Expected to Remain Exclusive to iPhone 14 Pro Models, Not Expand to Entire Lineup

Sunday January 16, 2022 8:56 am PST by
Continuing the tradition set with the iPhone 13 Pro, only the highest-end iPhone 14 models will feature Apple's ProMotion display technology, according to a respected display analyst. Ross Young, who on multiple occasions has detailed accurate information about Apple's future products, said in a tweet that ProMotion will not be expanded to the entire iPhone 14 lineup and will remain...
safari icon blue banner

Safari Bug Allows Websites to Track Your Recent Browsing Activity in Real Time [Updated]

Sunday January 16, 2022 3:37 pm PST by
A bug in WebKit's implementation of a JavaScript API called IndexedDB can reveal your recent browsing history and even your identity, according to a blog post shared on Friday by browser fingerprinting service FingerprintJS. In a nutshell, the bug allows any website that uses IndexedDB to access the names of IndexedDB databases generated by other websites during a user's browsing session....
ipad air 4 video

New iPad Air Rumored to Launch This Spring With A15 Chip, 5G, Center Stage Camera, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 8:05 pm PST by
Apple is planning to release a fifth-generation iPad Air with similar features as the sixth-generation iPad mini, including an A15 Bionic chip, 12-megapixel Ultra Wide front camera with Center Stage support, 5G for cellular models, and Quad-LED True Tone flash, according to Japanese blog Mac Otakara. Citing reliables sources in China, the report claims that the new iPad Air could be...
Unlikely Products 2022 Feature

Six Rumored Apple Products You're Unlikely to See This Year

Saturday January 15, 2022 2:06 pm PST by
Much has been said about what consumers could see from Apple in 2022, but the company is also working on a handful of rumored products that aren't expected to be unveiled for at least another 12 months, and in some cases a lot longer. Of course, that's assuming they get released at all. Apple works on many potential products some of which ultimately never see the light of day. With that in...
AirPods Pro Gen 3 Mock Feature Red

AirPods Pro 2 Could Start a New Accessory Ecosystem

Friday January 14, 2022 2:34 am PST by
Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro could arrive alongside a new series of accessories, recent leaked images suggest. Alleged leaked photos of the next-generation AirPods Pro obtained by MacRumors showed a charging case with a metal loop on the side for attaching a strap. Apple has not used this design for any of its other AirPod models and it is unclear why it would be added in this...
netflix2

Netflix Again Raises Prices for All Plans, 4K Streaming Now $20 Per Month

Friday January 14, 2022 12:46 pm PST by
Netflix today updated the prices for its streaming plans, and all of its offerings are now more expensive. The Basic plan is now priced at $9.99 per month, the Standard plan is priced at $15.49 per month, and the Premium plan is priced at $19.99 per month. The Basic plan is $1 more expensive, up from $8.99 per month. This plan allows users to watch on just one screen at a time, and it limits ...
tesla carplay solution

Developer Showcases Apple CarPlay Workaround for Teslas

Monday January 17, 2022 7:24 am PST by
A Tesla Model 3 owner has resorted to a workaround to implement Apple CarPlay in his vehicle, amid no sign of official support from Tesla (via Tesla North). Apple CarPlay and Apple Music support are among the most-requested Tesla features, but with no indication that Tesla is willing to implement Apple CarPlay in its vehicles, Polish developer Michał Gapiński took matters into his own...
top stories 20220115

Top Stories: iPhone 14 Pro Rumors, iCloud Private Relay Controversy, iOS 15.2.1 Released, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 6:00 am PST by
Hole-punch? Pill? Hole-punch and pill? Rumors about what the front camera system on the iPhone 14 Pro will look like are evolving rapidly, and it now appears we might be getting a novel but potentially controversial design later this year. Other major stories this week included some confusion and controversy about iCloud Private Relay being disabled for some T-Mobile customers, increasing...