Former Qualcomm CEO to Lead Company Powering Apple’s Satellite-Text Service

Paul Jacobs had previously been focused on his wireless-technology startup Xcom Labs.
Paul Jacobs had previously been focused on his wireless-technology startup Xcom Labs.


  • Globalstar also hires other executives from startup founded by Paul Jacobs

Former Qualcomm boss Paul Jacobsis taking over as chief executive of Globalstar, a satellite company that supports Apple’s emergency-communications capabilities.

Jacobs, the son of Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, served as CEO of Qualcomm from 2005 to 2014 and helped turn the chip maker into a stalwart servicing the smartphone industry. He was ousted from the company’s board in 2018 after pursuing a long-shot bid to take Qualcomm private.

He has spent the past five years focused on his wireless-technology startup Xcom Labs, which Jacobs said has developed technology to boost the capacity of wireless spectrum, among other advances. Globalstar, which in 2021 formed a strategic alliance with Xcom, will license that and other technology from the startup.

Globalstarhas agreed to issue about 60 million shares of common stock, worth some $64 million, to Xcom as a licensingfee. Globalstar has a market value of about $1.9 billion, as of Monday’s market close.

Shares of Globalstar rose almost 24% to $1.31 in midday trading.

The satellite company has also hired a number of Xcom executives, including some former Qualcomm executives, to join Jacobs. Some of the Xcom executives contributed years ago to the development of the original Globalstar system through their work at Qualcomm, said Jay Monroe, who has been Globalstar chairman since 2004 when his private-equity firm bought the company out from bankruptcy.

The combination of Globalstar’s spectrum holdings and its satellite fleet, along with Xcom’s capacity-boosting technology, will help the company gain ground in powering private networks for mission-critical applications, Jacobs said. “That is like having another piece of the differentiation puzzle," said Jacobs.

Jacobs said he took the Globalstar job because it seemed like a good cultural fit, adding that running a midsize company was appealing.

Jacobs, who will also join Globalstar’s board, succeeds David Kagan, who took over as the company’s chief executive in 2018. Jacobs has a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science and has over 80 U.S. patents in the field of wireless technology and devices.

Like its peers, Louisiana-based Globalstar has for years struggled to make its constellation of satellites profitable amid hefty maintenance costs.

Last year, Globalstar struck a deal with Apple to power the iPhone maker’s emergency-texting system, a partnership that gave Globalstar a deep-pocketed customer and a steady stream of revenue. Apple’s emergency-texting system, called Emergency SOS, enables all iPhone 14 models to send messages to emergency services via a satellite connection when outside of a cellular range.

Apple said it would invest some $450 million in infrastructure for its emergency-satellite service, with most of that going to Globalstar to upgrade aging satellites.

The deal also kicked off a race for others to develop and commercialize comparable technology.

Globalstar executives, though, have for years been searching for ways to generate revenue from the company’s spectrum rights by serving on-the-ground private networks. On a conference call in May, Monroe, the chairman, teased that a couple of such deals were under way with others. “We are in deal mode," he said.

Fleets of satellites in orbits near Earth can provide mobile-phone users with basic service options when they are out of reach of cell towers, companies and executives say. The expensive satellite links are unlikely to soon replace the data-rich internet connections offered by cellular networks on the ground, but with enough improvement, they could help fill gaps.

Globalstar and Apple aren’t alone in pursuing the technology. So-called direct-to-device satellite communications have attracted new entrants and fresh capital in recent years. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is working with cell carrier T-Mobile to test the technology while AT&T is working with AST SpaceMobile. Jacobs’ former company, Qualcomm, is also working with Iridiumto bring satellite texting to Android devices.

Despite a handful of high-profile deals in the space, industry executives have said it would take years for satellite-texting technology to expand beyond emergency services, or generate meaningful revenue.

“But it is clear, even from the current limited reach of the iPhone 14, that SOS services on smartphones do save lives, and that’s something we want to be part of," Iridium chief executive Matthew Desch told investors on a conference call in July.

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