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Satellite internet support heading to Android 14

The teased news would represent a major milestone for connectivity, and open up a new range of network benefits

The Android logo displayed on a smartphone, which is being held in front of a Google sign

Google is aiming to include connectivity for satellite internet in Android 14, a move that would put it at the forefront of networking technology.

Google senior vice president of Android, Chrome, Chrome OS & Play, Hiroshi Lockheimer, expressed admiration for how far connectivity on Android has come and hinted towards the future of the mobile operating system, in a Tweet on Monday.

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“When we launched G1 in ‘08 it was a stretch to get 3G + Wifi working. Now we’re designing for satellites. Cool! Excited to support our partners in enabling all of this in the next version of Android!”

The release of Android 14 remains firmly on the horizon, with Android 13 having only just dropped for many Pixel users, and many more across the Android ecosystem yet to receive it. Despite this, Google has indicated that the beta could be available for use as soon as April 2023.

In the meantime, Google is working with partners on multiple avenues of networking innovation. It recently announced a successful network slicing test with Nokia, in which a phone running Android 13 was able to connect to multiple 5G network slices simultaneously, for improved security and optimised network performance.

Last month, T-Mobile announced plans with SpaceX to provide satellite coverage for texts and eventually calls to some of the most remote areas in the US. With its low Earth orbit (LEO) Starlink satellite constellation, SpaceX is able to give its customers download speeds of up to 104 Mbits/sec in areas that lack even basic broadband coverage.

At present, devices such as phones can only access SpaceX Wi-Fi through a router that connects directly to a Starlink dish, which is the hardware that transfers data to and from the constellation. Phones that can connect directly to satellites could experience unprecedented network stability, and access high-speed broadband across the globe.

Satellite internet is a rapidly growing sector, with competition already hotting up between nation states and companies alike.

SpaceX’s Starlink constellation continues to expand at pace, with over 3,000 satellites in orbit at time of writing and FCC approval to eventually increase this number to 12,000. Starlink is the most widely supported satellite broadband provider currently, operating in over 40 countries and having recently secured exclusive deals to provide Wi-Fi for the Royal Caribbean cruise fleet, and for JSX airlines.

Meanwhile, the UK could receive home-grown satellite broadband coverage in the near future, as London-based OneWeb faces a merger with French satellite operator Eutelsat. This could greatly boost the rollout of OneWeb satellites to its own constellation, which currently consists of 428 satellites.

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