Tag Archive for: LEO

MediaTek, a Taiwanese chipmaker and Inmarsat, a British satellite operator have announced an extended partnership aimed at jointly developing technologies that will enable more mass-market devices to connect directly to Inmarsat’s satellite network. This expanded collaboration will not only focus on joint technology innovation but also encompass the commercial deployment of satellite-enabled devices, potentially spanning smartphones, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and even vehicles.

The services to be offered through this partnership could include two-way text messaging, emergency communications, and device tracking and monitoring for regions where terrestrial network coverage is limited or unavailable. However, there is currently no specific deadline for when these satellite-enabled devices will be commercially deployed as a result of this partnership.

In the case of smartphones, for instance, the approach will involve working closely with Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to integrate satellite connectivity into their offerings. This ensures that the integration aligns with the strategies and preferences of MNOs and OEMs, allowing them to provide enhanced services to their customers.

This collaboration builds upon a three-year partnership that had already yielded significant results. In February, the partnership led to the release of Android smartphones by ruggedized handset manufacturer Bullitt, which provided satellite-enabled text messaging services via service provider Skylo. With this expansion, Inmarsat and MediaTek aim to further innovate and expand the reach of satellite connectivity across various consumer and industrial applications.

The partnership between Inmarsat and MediaTek comes on the heels of other satellite operators venturing into the realm of enabling mass-market devices to connect directly to their networks. Iridium, for instance, announced Qualcomm as its partner to facilitate the connection of Android smartphones and other devices to its satellite constellation.

Furthermore, Apple introduced a satellite-enabled SOS service for the iPhone 14, using Globalstar’s network. It’s important to note that while Iridium and Globalstar operate in low Earth orbit (LEO), Inmarsat’s satellites are situated in geostationary orbit (GEO). This key distinction means that Inmarsat can provide two-way communications without the need for complex aiming of the device. However, it’s worth mentioning that Iridium and Globalstar enjoy an advantage in terms of latency since LEO satellites are much closer to Earth than GEO satellites.

A 5G phone call to an ordinary smartphone in a cellular dead zone was demonstrated by AST SpaceMobile which has achieved a significant milestone with its Blue Walker 3 test satellite. Here are the key points regarding this development:

  1. Successful 5G Phone Call: AST SpaceMobile’s Blue Walker 3 test satellite, which has been in orbit for a year, successfully relayed a 5G phone call to a Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone in a cellular dead zone near Hana, Hawaii. The call connected an engineer in Hawaii with another engineer in Spain for nearly two minutes.
  2. Improved Download Speeds: In addition to the 5G phone call, AST SpaceMobile reported improved download speeds compared to previous tests. Download rates reached around 14 megabits per second, surpassing the 10 Mbps speeds recorded over 4G in June. This indicates progress in enhancing satellite-based connectivity.
  3. Launch Plans: AST SpaceMobile plans to launch its first five commercial satellites, known as Block 1 BlueBird, to low Earth orbit (LEO) early next year on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. These satellites are expected to provide intermittent connectivity for initial device-monitoring services.
  4. Global 5G Service: The company is seeking funds to develop more powerful BlueBird satellites that would enable a global 5G service, extending connectivity beyond terrestrial cell towers. To achieve global coverage, AST SpaceMobile envisions deploying around 90 BlueBird satellites.
  5. Spectrum and Regulation: The 5G tests conducted by AST SpaceMobile used wireless spectrum from AT&T, and the company is in the process of seeking permission to lease terrestrial frequencies from AT&T on a commercial basis in the United States. The company, like other direct-to-device players, is also awaiting a regulatory framework from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to govern the emerging industry.

AST SpaceMobile‘s successful 5G phone call via satellite represents a significant step toward enabling global 5G connectivity, particularly in areas with limited terrestrial infrastructure. The company’s plans for launching additional satellites and regulatory developments will play a crucial role in realizing this vision of ubiquitous connectivity.

The direct-to-device market, which involves satellite-based communication services delivered directly to consumer devices, is seeing divergent opinions on its growth potential. Here are key points regarding this market and the differing views presented:

  1. Market Overview: The direct-to-device market involves providing satellite-based communication services directly to consumer devices, such as smartphones, without the need for specialized equipment like satellite phones. Companies like Lynk Global, AST SpaceMobile, Globalstar, and Iridium Communications are active players in this space.
  2. Lynk’s Optimistic Outlook: Charles Miller, the CEO of Lynk Global, suggested that the direct-to-device market could achieve annual revenues of $1 billion in less than five years. Lynk currently operates with a small constellation of LEO (Low Earth Orbit) spacecraft and focuses on services like text messaging and emergency alerts.
  3. Iridium’s Conservative View: Suzi McBride, the Chief Operating Officer of Iridium Communications, took a more cautious stance, estimating that it would “take a good 10 years” for the market to reach the $1 billion annual revenue milestone. Iridium has a long history of providing satellite communications to specialized handsets.
  4. Diverse Approaches: Various satellite operators are taking different approaches to tap into the direct-to-device market. Some are leveraging their existing infrastructure and spectrum, while others are planning large-scale satellite constellations designed specifically for this purpose.
  5. Market Dynamics: The growth of the direct-to-device market depends on several factors, including the development of user-friendly devices, regulatory frameworks, consumer adoption, and competition from terrestrial networks, especially in densely populated areas.

In summary, the direct-to-device satellite communication market is characterized by diverse strategies and differing views on its growth trajectory. While some are optimistic about rapid expansion, others take a more cautious and longer-term perspective. The market’s evolution will likely be influenced by a range of factors, including technological advancements, regulatory decisions, and competitive dynamics.

“Direct-to-device” communication in the context of satellite technology is a significant and evolving topic with a potentially substantial market impact. This communication approach involves sending data, content, or services directly to user devices, such as smartphones, without the need for intermediary ground-based infrastructure or additional user equipment. Here are some key points to consider regarding direct-to-device satellite communication:

  1. Market Potential: The direct-to-device satellite communication market holds immense potential, with estimates of its value reaching up to $100 billion. This potential is driven by various factors, including the growing demand for connectivity in remote or underserved areas, disaster response and recovery efforts, IoT applications, and more.
  2. Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellites: The rise of LEO satellite constellations, such as SpaceX and OneWeb, is a driving force behind the concept of direct-to-device communication. LEO satellites operate at lower altitudes, reducing latency and enabling direct communication with user devices.
  3. Reduced Latency: Direct-to-device communication via LEO satellites can significantly reduce latency compared to traditional geostationary satellites. This low-latency connectivity is essential for applications like online gaming, video conferencing, and real-time IoT data transmission.
  4. Global Coverage: Direct-to-device satellite networks aim to provide global coverage, extending connectivity to remote and rural areas that lack terrestrial infrastructure. This has the potential to bridge the digital divide and bring the benefits of the internet to underserved populations.
  5. Challenges: While direct-to-device satellite communication offers numerous advantages, it also comes with challenges. These include regulatory issues, spectrum management, satellite constellation deployment, cost-effectiveness, and competition with existing terrestrial networks.
  6. Emerging Applications: Beyond traditional internet access, direct-to-device satellite communication can support a wide range of applications, including disaster management, environmental monitoring, precision agriculture, and autonomous vehicles.
  7. Economic Impact: The success of direct-to-device satellite communication could have a substantial economic impact, fostering innovation, creating job opportunities, and stimulating economic growth in various sectors.

Therefore, direct-to-device satellite communication represents a significant shift in how we think about connectivity, with the potential to reshape industries, bridge connectivity gaps, and create new opportunities for businesses and individuals. However, its success depends on addressing technical, regulatory, and economic challenges while capitalizing on the advantages it offers in terms of global coverage and low latency.

The global satellite services market is poised for growth in the coming years, with expectations of its value increasing from $107 billion in 2022 to $123 billion by 2032, according to projections by Euroconsult. Key insights from this forecast include:

  1. Data Services Surge: Data services revenues are expected to experience significant growth, nearly tripling from $19 billion in 2022 to $53 billion in 2032. This surge is indicative of the increasing demand for data connectivity, driven by applications like IoT, data analytics, and global internet access.
  2. Video Demand Shift: In contrast, Euroconsult foresees a slight dip in video demand, with revenues decreasing by about 20 percent from $88 billion in 2022 to $70 billion in 2032. This shift may be attributed to changing consumer preferences, including the rise of streaming services and on-demand content.
  3. Competition and Ecosystem Changes: Despite the overall optimism, the satellite services market is expected to face turbulence due to intense competition and a rapidly evolving ecosystem. The dynamics of the industry are shifting, with the emergence of new satellite constellations and technologies, challenging the established players.
  4. Insurance Impact: Recent anomalies in geostationary orbit, such as issues with satellites like Arcturus, Inmarsat 6 F2, and Viasat-3 Americas, are expected to impact the insurance market. These incidents have raised concerns and could lead to higher insurance costs for satellite operators.

In summary, the satellite services market is poised for growth, driven by increasing demand for data connectivity services. However, the industry faces challenges, including competition, ecosystem changes, and insurance concerns, which could impact its trajectory in the coming years. Nonetheless, satellite technology continues to play a crucial role in global connectivity and data transmission.

Globalstar, the company responsible for Apple’s satellite-powered SOS application, reported a significant 50% rise in quarterly sales on August 3rd, attributed to promising growth in its business of connecting remote Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Approximately half of Globalstar’s $55 million revenue during the quarter ending on June 30th was generated by wholesale capacity service revenues, largely driven by Apple. Apple has been utilizing Globalstar’s satellites since November for its iPhone emergency messaging feature.

In addition, the company’s commercial IoT segment contributed $9 million to the revenue, marking a 33% increase compared to the same period last year. Globalstar aims to expand this IoT business by introducing two-way services by the end of 2023. Currently, the IoT services are unidirectional, offering tracking and monitoring functions in regions with poor or no terrestrial network coverage. The integration of two-way capabilities would empower customers with command and control functionalities.

Apple is supporting Globalstar in launching 17 new satellites to enhance its low Earth orbit fleet. In exchange, Apple will have access to 85% of the satellite capacity for its emergency messaging requirements. The remaining 15% of capacity could potentially accommodate a substantial increase in commercial IoT subscribers, as indicated by B. Riley analyst Mike Crawford.

According to CEO David Kagan, Globalstar is confident about securing a substantial portion of the remaining satellite capacity, especially following the implementation of its two-way module.

Kagan stated that half of the required infrastructure for the two-way IoT service has been deployed across Globalstar’s gateways. The company is preparing to initiate beta services for select clients later this year.

Furthermore, Globalstar confirmed that its upcoming next-generation satellites are progressing as scheduled for launch in 2025. These launches adhere to the original agreements with MDA and Rocket Lab. The satellites are currently entering a critical design review phase, indicating steady progress in their development.

The supply chain challenges that previously caused delays in producing Globalstar’s legacy Spot GPS and messaging devices have been resolved by mid-April, as reported by Kagan during the earnings call.

Despite a 4% decrease in Spot service revenues for the second quarter of 2023, Kagan anticipates a surge in subscriber numbers throughout this year. Adjusted EBITDA witnessed a substantial 86% increase, reaching $27 million.

The company has revised its revenue expectations for 2023, now projecting a range between $200 million and $230 million. This represents a growth of 35% to 55% compared to 2022. The earlier guidance had indicated total sales between $185 million and $230 million for 2023. These estimates exclude potential revenue from Globalstar’s spectrum leasing for terrestrial use.

During the earnings call, Globalstar’s Executive Chair, James Monroe, expressed optimism about the adoption of devices capable of utilizing the company’s Band 53 frequencies. Monroe expects these devices to reach hundreds of millions by the same time next year, as Globalstar continues discussions with terrestrial partners and regulatory authorities worldwide.