Qualcomm terminated a satellite-to-phone partnership with Iridium less than a year after it being announced to much fanfare at CES, with the latter citing a lack of uptake for the technology from device makers.

In a statement, Iridium revealed the partnership would end on 3 December, with Qualcomm the one to pull the plug.

The satellite company added once its current pact ends, it will be free to directly engage with other chipmakers, smartphone OS developers and device makers.

Qualcomm and Iridium made the arrangement during a time of increasing hype on direct-to-device satellite connectivity, with Apple unveiling the functionality in September 2022.

The companies were collaborating on integrating satellite messaging and emergency service functionality into Qualcomm’s Snapdragon platforms.

Iridium explained the two had successfully developed and demonstrated the technology, but “notwithstanding this technical success, smartphone manufacturers have not included the technology in their devices” citing that as the reason Qualcomm terminated the contract.

CCS Insight senior analyst Luke Pearce noted the move should not be seen as a knock for the satellite-to-phone market. “Instead, it’s a clear acknowledgment that the 3GPP NTN Standards-based route will be the preferable way to go for most, with Iridium’s existing LEO constellation being based on proprietary tech being its downfall.”

For his part, Iridium CEO Matt Desch also remained bullish on the prospects of direct-to-device technology, stating that while he is “disappointed that this partnership didn’t bear immediate fruit, we believe the direction of the industry is clear toward increased satellite connectivity in consumer devices”.

“Led by Apple today, MNOs and device manufacturers still plan, over time, to provide their customers with expanded coverage and new satellite-based features, and our global coverage and regulatory certainty make us well suited to be a key player in this emerging market. User experience will be critical to their success, and we’ve proven that we can provide a reliable, global capability to mobile users.”