Satellite communications (SATCOM) has existed for decades in space, but now it enters a new phase of satellite IoT. The use of sensors in space to monitor activities on Earth is building a new economy. Here are ways IoT SATCOM is opening up new markets for adventurous enterprises.
Mixing IoT with Satellite Technology
The concept of satellite IoT is an outgrowth of Internet of Things (IoT) proliferation, in which the tech industry has found increasing ways to digitize the environment. IoT data is transmitted to databases and mobile devices all over the world, thanks to the blanketing of the planet with IoT sensors.
More than two-thirds of the current global population uses a cell phone, which accounts for over 5 billion people, according to DataReportal. Meanwhile, nearly the same amount of people use the internet daily. The advent of 5G internet will expand internet coverage even further. It will particularly help residents in rural areas gain better connectivity. By 2024, the number of 5G subscriptions in the world is expected to reach 1.5 billion.
At this point, about 2.7 million devices connect to the internet via satellite, as reported by EMEA Satellite Operator's Association. These devices are used for monitoring the environment, military, aviation, infrastructure and shipping. The ramp up for space IoT is expected to grow by eight times in the next few years, as this technology is poised for commercialization later in the decade.
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Due to the expansion of satellite IoT technology in space, launching a space IoT service will be affordable for many companies in the future. For this reason, SATCOM will be among the first markets developed in space. The industry has multiple untapped markets to fill, especially since cellular communication services currently only cover 15 percent of the planet.
Many different types of businesses will consider investing in advanced internet through satellite technology. While satellite internet currently has connectivity and latency issues in cloudy or stormy weather, satellite internet of the future will be more stable and seamless. It will inspire countless businesses to use satellite IoT for improving safety and production. Analytics are driving all industries toward better data collection and real-time system monitoring with IoT sensors.
Rise of Space Networks
Space networks will be shaped by the development of Low-Power Wide-Area Networks (LPWANs) such as LoRa and SigFox. These networks are designed to have low consumption costs and high reliability for space connectivity. The LoRa network is currently facilitating most satellite IoT services, but in the future, more services will go through NarrowBand IoT (aka NB-IoT). This emerging space network aims to connect 90 percent of LPWAN systems in the future, according to Lux Research.
Not only does NB-IoT offer better coverage than other LPWAN networks with its symmetrical channel bandwidth, but it also supports a multitude of devices. NB-IoT, which is designed to service IoT devices with weak coverage, is ideal for transmitting small amounts of data over long time periods. This wide-range cellular standard will help lower costs for device operation and power consumption. It already integrates well with GSM and LTE systems.
The coverage range of NB-IoT will expand even further when integrated with existing software-defined radio communication devices on small satellites known as smallsats. The smallsat market already contributes to aviation communications and crop harvesting. It also helps extend internet coverage to rural and other remote areas.
Major Satellite IoT Turning Points
The SATCOM market has been steadily reaching new milestones each year. In 2020, the market size was $737 million, which is a fraction of what it's projected to be in the 2030s. Here are other recent developments that are setting the stage for the future of satellite IoT:
- July 2021: Airbus collaborates with OneWeb Satellites to produce up to 650 satellites that provide global high-speed internet access.
- March 2021: Allen Space begins launching satellites for its Sateliot constellation. The 5G project will consist of 100 small satellites equipped with IoT sensors to provide global internet coverage.
- June 2020: Globalstar launches its ST100 Satellite Transmitter. This lightweight communication system allows original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to integrate with the SATCOM market.
Key SATCOM Benefits
Companies that enter the SATCOM market will find plenty of demand for satellite IoT. Here are some of the ways it will improve society and businesses:
- Wider use of sensors: Satellite IoT will make internet coverage ubiquitous on Earth. The most remote areas will have high-speed internet, creating an actual connected global village.
- Transform infrastructure: Urban planners and local governments will have higher-quality connectivity to facilitate smart infrastructure.
- Growth of smart cities: Smart technology will improve cities on many levels, such as real-time rerouting to manage traffic congestion.
- More reliable connectivity: Future 5G mobile satellite services will offer faster data transmission speeds and more reliable coverage.
- Lower cost: Mobile satellite services will help cut internet costs around the world.
- Easy integration: IoT technology developed for the SATCOM market will be designed for easy integration with existing and future carrier systems
Outlook for the Satellite IoT Market
The satellite IoT market already consists of major players in top industries. Some of the early adopting industries for commercializing SATCOM include defense, energy, transportation and healthcare. Utilities, farms and other large facilities are expected to invest billions of dollars in the satellite IoT market over the next decade. Overall, the satellite IoT market is expected to reach $6.14 billion by 2031, according to Transparency Market Research.
A key driver to global satellite IoT growth is existing growth and new innovations in wireless technology. Satellite IoT already serves a growing market for security sensors placed throughout large complexes. It fills in gaps that the traditional infrastructure of cellular technology fails to reach. Demand is rising for satellite IoT to serve areas where cellular coverage is weak or nonexistent.
SATCOM will play a major role in agriculture going forward, as it can be used to find areas of the globe where growing crops is ideal. It will lead to a system for offsetting droughts and other environmental disruptions that threaten agriculture. Farmers will have more powerful digital tools to measure environmental conditions involving soil, air and water. Thanks to the spread of sensors on Earth that communicate with satellites in space, ideal harvesting will be within reach.
Companies that have already taken the lead in SATCOM development include:
- Iridium Communication
- Inmarsat Global Limited
- Airbus S.A.S.
- Intelsat Corporation
North America is on pace to be the leading global market in satellite technology, which will encourage wider international adoption. Not only are satellites widely embraced by logistics firms, but they could also help ease supply chain bottlenecks in the future.
Today, there are already over ten billion internet devices on the planet and in space. By 2030, there will be exponentially more, as the satellite IoT era begins and the boundaries between Earth and space dissolve. Wireless communication will travel through space at lightning speed, reaching the most remote places on the globe. Keep yourself up to date on the exciting development of commercial SATCOM.