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.

Lynk Global, a U.S.-based startup, is making strides in the Pacific island nation of Palau, where the Palau National Communications Corporation (PNCC), the country’s largest telecom operator, plans to become the first to use Lynk’s direct-to-device satellites commercially. This technology will provide wireless customers in Palau with connectivity outside terrestrial network coverage.

The technology is set to be deployed in Palau’s southwest region, specifically in the Sonsorol state. With Lynk’s direct-to-device satellites, PNCC customers will be able to send and receive periodic texts up to three times a day. This new service will be accessible via their existing mobile phones, replacing the current usage of radios on very high frequency (VHF) spectrum for communications in that area.

Lynk Global currently operates three small satellites in a low Earth orbit constellation. The company plans to expand this constellation to increase coverage and reduce latency, with the ultimate goal of enabling additional connectivity services, including voice calls. The move by PNCC in Palau is a significant step towards making Lynk’s satellite communication services commercially available to a broader user base.

Lynk Global has ambitious plans to expand its satellite constellation and provide satellite-enabled coverage to a wide range of locations, including the Pacific island nation of Palau. The Virginia-based venture has secured funding to launch three more satellites in the fall and has commitments for an additional six satellites to be deployed in January.

The company aims to have more than 50 satellites operational by the end of 2024, with plans for a constellation of approximately 5,000 satellites in total. For PNCC in Palau, Lynk’s deployment plan would allow them to expand satellite-enabled coverage to two more islands by the end of 2023, and eventually provide coverage to all of Palau’s 300+ islands and surrounding waters by March.

Beyond providing universal service to Palau, Lynk’s satellite network can also serve as a backup in case of natural disasters that disrupt the country’s ground network.

Lynk has signed agreements with more than 30 companies, and the startup has successfully demonstrated its technology in over 40 countries on seven continents. This progress indicates growing interest and confidence in the use of satellite-based communications solutions for expanding connectivity in remote and challenging environments.

Lynk Global is making progress in securing regulatory approvals to operate its direct-to-device satellite services in various countries, including the United States. The startup has announced plans to launch commercially in New Zealand this fall and in Canada early next year through partnerships with mobile operators. However, specific details about other countries where Lynk intends to offer its services have not been disclosed.

In the emerging direct-to-device market, Lynk’s competitors include AST SpaceMobile, a Texas-based startup that plans to launch its first five commercial satellites early next year. AST SpaceMobile recently achieved 4G LTE download speeds during tests with its prototype satellite, BlueWalker 3, in low Earth orbit. These successful tests demonstrated the capability of providing high-speed data services to mobile devices in remote areas using their satellite network.

The direct-to-device satellite industry is gaining momentum, with multiple companies striving to provide reliable and accessible connectivity services to areas beyond the reach of traditional terrestrial networks. As these companies continue to develop and deploy their satellite constellations, they are likely to play a significant role in expanding global connectivity and bridging the digital divide.