Sateliot, the first satellite operator to launch a 5G standard LEO satellite, announced a key partnership with the Swiss Comfone, a leading provider of mobile connectivity and roaming services, with more than 25 years of experience in the industry.
This operation will enable more than 480 MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) and MVNOs to expand their coverage with simple standard roaming agreements, as Sateliot is a full GSMA (Global System for Mobile communications Association) member.
Comfone’s Key2roam Platform will facilitate the rapid integration between Sateliot, MNOs and MVNOs, thanks to a complete portfolio of services comprising IPX, Clearing, and Hubbing services.
We had the pleasure of talking with Gianluca Redolfi, CCO at Sateliot. He helped us understand the company’s goals and the significant benefits their services will be able to generate.
Revolutionizing satellite connection for a quality service to the end-user
Sateliot is a major contributor to the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) and the first company to offer NB-IoT satellite connection according to 3GPP’s Release 17 protocol. Thanks to these capabilities, final users will be able to switch from terrestrial to non-terrestrial 5G network using the same SIM card, with no need to purchase any extra hardware, such as antennas or modems.
As stated by Gianluca Redolfi to Space Voyaging:
“We are partnering with various MNOs so that we become an extension of their cellular network. It’s a natural extension because it’s the same protocol (REL-17). […] We offer MNOs’ customers coverage from space where terrestrial coverage is lacking. An impressive shift, previously you either adopted a satellite connection device or a cellular one, now you can do both with the same device.”
Today cellular coverage reaches only 15% of Earth’s surface. With its 5G NB-IoT nanosatellite constellation, Sateliot intends to support the massive increase in demand for global connectivity for the Internet of Things (IoT). According to some estimates, there will be nearly 80 billion IoT devices by 2025.
Redolfi, on the areas with the highest demand: “The most interesting areas are clearly the vast regions with limited coverage in large countries like China, Russia, the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil, which have a combination of a strong economy and a good level of digitalization.”
He added: “There are already hundreds of roaming agreements between operators from various countries. We offer roaming where there is no cellular coverage. It’s a straightforward agreement.”
Supporting satellite-based 5G IoT connectivity for industries
Sateliot is looking at the increasing usage of IoT technologies in different industries, from smart agriculture to smart cities. Companies aim for increasingly smart production, and to achieve this, they use more interconnected devices. Some of the sectors more interested by IoT applications:
- Agriculture. The Precision Farming or Agriculture 4.0, allows farmers to better manage their resources, building a more efficient and sustainable production. However, a lot of rural areas are poorly connected, limiting the progress of this sector. Sateliot will provide better connectivity at a low cost worldwide.
As Redolfi pointed out: “There are already companies offering connectivity services for farmers, but there are limitations for sensors. We add an extension in rural areas; that’s our market segment.”
- Maritime transport. Around 90% of global trade is carried by marine shipping. Due to the absence of cellular connectivity at sea, the monitoring of the goods transported by cargo is limited near shore. Sateliot is collaborating with Sensefinity to provide smart containers with 5G IoT technology to prevent cargo damage, reducing food waste and carbon emissions.
- Livestock. Thanks to new IoT devices, farmers can better manage their production and track animals’ health and locations. Sateliot’s NTN can help cover the rural and uncovered areas.
Regarding Sateliot’s involvement in the defense sector, Gianluca Redolfi stated:
“There is a lot of interest from defense departments in various countries. With large budgets, if the cost of connectivity decreases, the use of IoT devices increases. One of our major investors is Indra, one of the leading technology and consulting companies in the Defense market.”
Interesting, he talked about the market in the field of safety and prevention as well:
“For fire prevention, we have contacts with California-based companies, where the problem is significant. […] When sensors cost much less, they will start to be placed everywhere, like in life jackets at sea or for avalanche prevention in the mountains.”
Sateliot’s Spacecraft and Launch Plans
On April 15, 2023, Sateliot deployed Sateliot_0, “The GroundBreaker”, the first 5G NB-IoT LEO satellite.
The satellite was launched on board a SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket during the Transporter-7 mission, from Vandenberg in California. The GroundBreaker is the first of a 250 LEO Satellite Constellation, and can cover an area three times as big as Texas.
In July, Sateliot and the Mobile Operator Telefónica, successfully conducted an end-to-end test, connecting a SIM of an IoT device to Sateliot’s 5G network for the first time ever. The test was supervised by the European Space Agency.
Regarding the choice of the launch provider for their Constellation, Redolfi was pretty much straightforward:
“SpaceX is the number 1 company, both in terms of the number of launches and price, and they are the most consistent. They are the obvious choice for us, unless something unexpected happens.”
Lastly, on the management of the launch rate:
“In April or May of next year, we will launch 4 additional satellites. We will reach 64 in 2024. The goal for 2025 is to have between 200 and 250 satellites in orbit. […] Using different orbital plans, they will be launched in more or less numerous groups.”