Iridium signs partner in its boost to support global satellite-based IoT

The early developments in Internet of Things (IoT) networks were focused on short area technologies like ZigBee; then cellular and unlicensed spectrum options battled it out in the low power WAN segment. But IoT connectivity on a global scale is envisaged by satellite providers armed with emerging LPGAN (low power global area network) technologies.

Satellite operator Iridium Communications has signed a deal with Magnitude Space, an emerging player in low power small satellites, signaling Iridium’s interest in exploring collaborative partnerships with players in this field, with an eye on the IoT.

As part of the memo of understanding (MoU), the companies will begin discussions on how to collaborate on opportunities for space-based IoT services with the development of reliable LPGAN technologies.

“We envision a future where numerous diverse satellite architectures interwork to support the dramatically expanding IoT universe,” said Iridium CEO Matt Desch. “From high bandwidth access points to highly mobile and low latency devices like Iridium supports today, to low power, higher latency networks like Magnitude Space envisions, Iridium has the experience and global platform to enable all of these capabilities to interwork.”

Magnitude Space, headquartered in The Netherlands, is planning to build a network of 18-24 small satellites that will deliver LPGAN connectivity to remote areas of the world. Some of its target use cases are monitoring of soil moisture levels and tracking livestock. It says it offers a cost-effective solution for very low power monitoring and tracking applications that require long life battery and infrequent non-real-time messages.

“We are excited to begin exploring how we can work with and benefit from a cooperation with Iridium. They are arguably the first successful NewSpace player, and have made LEO (low earth orbit) their successful home when others said it couldn’t be done,” said Ernst Peter Hovinga, CEO of Magnitude Space. “As we evolve as a company, we feel that Iridium is an ideal partner for us. They set the standard for low earth satellite network operations, and support a vast distribution and technology partner ecosystem for satellite IoT customers.”

Magnitude Space plans to launch in the second quarter of 2018 and believes it will be the first to market with such a service offering.

Earlier this year, Iridium launched Iridium Edge for global asset tracking, safety and fleet management in the IoT. It can also be used to add satellite connectivity to cellular applications. The operator says its IoT business is its fastest growing segment, and it saw commercial IoT data subscribers increase by 20% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2017.

Iridium is in the process of launching its next generation constellation, Iridium NEXT, which will enable faster speeds and higher throughputs, and enhanced low latency satellite connectivity for the IoT.