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Rumored iPhone 13 updates may reduce the digital divide

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Abby Butler

The anticipated iPhone 13 is rumored to have the built-in capability of making satellite calls by connecting directly to low earth orbit (LEO) satellites, thanks to a customized baseband chip. LEO satellites are probably best-known as part of Elon Musk’s Starlink internet service.


Stephen Wicker

Stephen Wicker

Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Stephen Wicker, professor of electrical and computer engineering, is an expert in information network privacy issues. Wicker has led NSF-funded research on communication structure and the digital divide in New York State. He says iPhones that can directly connect to the internet will greatly reduce the digital divide and increase competition in a marketplace currently dominated by the duopoly of cable and ADSL.

Wicker says:

“Cellular connectivity will be guaranteed from virtually anywhere on earth (I would expect the LEO constellation to have minimal coverage at the poles).  As long as one can move to a window or outdoors, one can connect.

“The LEO satellites are much closer to the earth than traditional satellites, so the connections will be much stronger.  Signals to and from LEO satellites may be able to penetrate ceilings and walls, providing better connectivity.

“Elon Musk’s system is designed to provide Internet connectivity – iPhones that can directly connect will greatly reduce the digital divide and increase competition in a marketplace currently dominated by the duopoly of cable and ADSL.”

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