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Telefónica flirts with Sateliot’s direct-to-satellite IoT tech

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Spanish operator group Telefónica is looking to space to help it offer seamless NB-IoT coverage in those hard-to-reach places.

The telco has tasked its Telefónica Tech arm and Telefónica Global Services (TGS) with testing out satellite-based 5G NB-IoT technology developed by Sateliot. Based in Spain, Sateliot launched its first low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite in March 2021. Like an increasing number of satellite service providers, its aim is to provide connectivity directly to terminals – in this case IoT modules – thereby doing away with expensive accoutrements like local terrestrial networks hooked up to ground stations.

“Sateliot’s purpose is to make IoT connectivity available everywhere and to everybody, and this is thanks to our unrivalled satellite constellation based on 5G standards, and with a unique cost-effective approach pricing it at a fraction of current satellite connectivity,” declared Jaume Sanpera, co-founder and CEO of Sateliot, in a statement on Wednesday.

Telefónica plans to integrate the LEO network with Kite, Telefónica Tech’s managed connectivity platform for IoT devices. The telco reckons the agriculture, wind and solar, and shipping sectors stand to benefit the most from satellite-based NB-IoT.

“5G satellite connectivity access provides a standards-based answer to IoT customers who require full coverage using the same NB-IoT devices that the industry already has,” said Carlos Carazo technology and technical operations director of IoT and big data at Telefónica Tech.

“We are convinced that these types of solutions will help us to consolidate our position as a benchmark in IoT thanks to our Kite platform and other innovation projects based on virtualisation and the deployment of the network in the cloud,” he said.

If all goes well, Telefónica Tech and TGS aim to begin pre-commercial pilots of Sateliot’s technology with customers later this year.

Satellites, in particular LEO satellites, are hot property these days, as telcos look to fill in coverage gaps and offer innovative new network-based services beyond the traditional terrestrial fodder.

Telefónica for its part, in addition to working with Sateliot, also recently partnered with OneWeb to help plug holes in its European and LatAm networks. OneWeb has been on a tear with its dealmaking this year. In March it struck partnerships with major shareholder and GEO services provider Eutelsat, Australian incumbent Telstra. It also signed a contract to use SpaceX for launch services so it doesn’t have to rely on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Khazakstan, which is leased to Russia.

Meanwhile last week, Ericsson buddied up with Qualcomm and defence firm Thales to conduct ground-based testing of all the componentry required to offer 5G non-terrestrial network (NTN) coverage.

These are just a smattering of recent news highlights. A report in June from satellite research firm Northern Sky Research (NSR) quantified the scale of the satellite opportunity. The analyst firm expects more than 33,000 satellites – primarily non-GEO (geostationary orbit) satellites – to be manufactured and launched by 2031. By then, it expects the market to generate revenue of $633 billion over the next decade. Crew and cargo missions – which includes the launch of space-based infrastructure – is expected to be the biggest single sector, accounting for $216 billion of that sum.

 

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