The rumors are flying after satellite operator Globalstar coyly announced an agreement this week with “a large, global customer” to build out a new communications network, just months after announcing that an unidentified “potential customer” had put up more than $300 million to finance the purchase of 13 new satellites.
Analysts believe that the customer is a single entity. The scuttlebutt is that Apple is behind these deals, with the goal of using Globalstar to provide satellite connectivity to a future iPhone. Globalstar says it has been working with this customer since 2020 “in connection with the assessment of a potential service utilizing certain of our assets and capacity.”
Why Apple? In 2021, Bloomberg News cited anonymous sources to report that Apple was considering adding satellite-enabled communications to its mobile devices. And whoever the customer is, they have already paid some $430 million just in “assessment” of a potential service, so they must have deep pockets. That said, Globalstar has partnered with both Nokia and Qualcomm before, and both qualify as large, global customers.
Why Globalstar? This is a more interesting question. It’s not a very successful satellite company, losing more than $1.5 billion in the last decade, with its stock trading around $1 per share. Its main business is providing low-bandwidth telecom services, like text messages and data relays with internet of things devices. What it does have is a license to operate on a valuable chunk of spectrum.