Inmarsat and chip manufacturer MediaTek joined forces for an expanded drive to grab a slice of the direct-to-device satellite connectivity market, with the pair aiming to simplify adding compatibility to handsets and IoT units.

The duo have already worked together on in-orbit trials of two-way communications systems, however the companies noted the new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) “significantly extends” their relationship.

It covers joint technology innovation and eventual commercial deployment of satellite-enabled devices. The pair are targeting bringing “ultra-reliable, two-way satellite services” to smartphones, IoT devices, cars and industry applications.

They claim the partnership will allow them to help operators and OEMs offer various services over satellite including two-way text messaging, emergency communications and device tracking. The pair note they aim to achieve this without the need for “pointing” on most devices.

Plans combine MediaTek’s 5G non-terrestrial network technology and Inmarsat’s existing satellite network.

Inmarsat chief commercial and digital officer Jat Brainch said the two had the potential to support a “revolution in direct-to-device, IoT and car connectivity,” explaining it aimed to provide “a fast and consumer friendly path to satellite to device capability that allows two-way communications and does not require complex aiming of the device.”

MediaTek corporate vice president JC Hsu added the extended collaboration “opens up new possibilities for the convergence of cellular and satellite networks.”

Sky high aims
The move is MediaTek’s latest in its pursuit of supplying chips for the increased appetite for satellite connectivity in handsets, with the company also providing hardware for Bullitt Group’s rugged direct to satellite offering.

With the sector hotting up, rival Qualcomm also upped its move in the space race earlier this year.

Alongside Inmarsat there are a number of other players in the satellite segment eyeing direct-to-handset connectivity including AST SpaceMobile, Lynk Global and SpaceX.