LEO in the ascendancy as operators rack up satellite deals


Telefónica is one of three service providers to have announced a deal with a low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite operator this week.

The Spanish incumbent’s enterprise division, Telefónica Global Solutions (TGS), said on Tuesday that the service is already operational in Mexico, and will be extended to Peru, Colombia, Chile, Brazil and Spain throughout the rest of this year. Other markets are due to follow at a later date.

Starlink’s enterprise service differs slightly from its consumer offering. It comes with a high-end terminal that TGS says is capable of reaching peak download speeds of 300-350 Mbps, and performs better in adverse weather. There is also a smaller terminal that enables satellite connectivity on the go.

The global nature of this agreement is what makes this a noteworthy deal. Telefónica’s footprint and scale means Starlink now has a sizeable reseller that can tout its low Earth orbit (LEO) services in 12 markets.

The partnership also highlights how the LEO sector is beginning to deliver on its potential, which has been a long time coming due to the relative cost and complexity of constructing and deploying satellite constellations.

Further evidence was served up by OneWeb, which on the same day announced a distribution deal with IP Access (the connectivity services provider that sells to enterprises and first responders, not the ip.access that makes small cells and was acquired by Mavenir) that covers the whole of the US.

IP Access will use OneWeb’s network to enhance its SuperGIG service, which offers blanket connectivity that aggregates cellular and satellite when needed, and is all paid for with a single service plan. It is pitched as a public safety and enterprise critical mobile communications solution.

Some of the newer kids on the block also gained further traction this week.

Lynk, which differs slightly from the others by offering satellite direct-to-device (D2D) connectivity, on Tuesday struck a deal with Vodafone to offer its services in the Cook Islands.

Satellite connectivity is a no-brainer in a country that consists of more than 15 small islands spread across nearly 2 million square kilometres of the South Pacific.

“It is a staggering amount of territory, and Lynk is proud to work with Vodafone to connect their subscribers,” said Lynk’s chief commercial officer Dan Dooley, in a statement.

The service will launch in beta mode in an area called Manuae Route. Assuming all goes well, it will then be extended to other locations.

The deal marks the second mobile operator to have begun offering services over Lynk’s network. The first was the Palau National Communications Corporation (PNCC), which operates telco services in the Republic of Palau, which comprises more than 300 islands. That deal was announced back in June.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect to this week’s Cook Islands deal is that as far as Lynk and Vodafone are concerned, it is commercially viable. With a population of just over 15,000, that’s not a huge addressable market. Presumably the geography of the Cook Islands means that while it’s not a big audience, it is a captive one.

All this enthusiasm for converged satellite and terrestrial cellular connectivity is expected to propel global satellite service revenue to $124.6 billion by 2030, according to ABI Research. That’s a huge figure, but on this week’s evidence, the forecast doesn’t look too outlandish.


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