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17 January 2023

Sateliot races to launch first nanosatellites for 5G-IoT

A start-up called Sateliot, based in Barcelona, Spain, aims to be the first satellite operator to put up a constellation specifically to support 5G IoT use cases.

The first Sateliot nanosatellite will be launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX next month and the aim is to have four more launched this year, and 250 by the end of 2025.

Sateliot CEO Jaume Sanpera told EETimes that the firm has been working for four years to develop its IoT nanosats in a field that has been much-hyped, and become quite crowded with new entrants in recent years. But this company believes it has a technology and intellectual property advantage over some challengers, having made 17 contributions to the 3GPP’s standards for non-terrestrial network (NTN) interworking with 5G, which form part of Release 17.

The Sateliot low-earth orbit satellite (LEOsat) will use the 5G iteration of NB-IoT to connect IoT devices on the ground though the scale of adoption will be partly decided by availability of chipsets that are sufficiently low, in cost and size, to be included in IoT gadgets.

“By mid-year, most of the large manufacturers will have Release 17 implemented on their chipsets,” Sanpera said in the interview, envisaging that 5G-IoT devices will be mainstream during 2024.

The firm is now talking to 54 MNOs round the world, it says, about running its service and has signed up Telefónica as its first partner. While many MNOs are working with satellite mainly for backhaul and vehicle connectivity in remote areas, some are starting to assess the commercial opportunity for IoT use cases that require ubiquitous coverage, such as remote infrastructure monitoring or smart agriculture, but would benefit from being able to use standard cellular devices rather than specific satellite end points.

Sanpera expects the first services to involve IoT devices that send out one message a day, perhaps for infrastructure monitoring, and believes these account for about one-third of the market. A similar number of customers will want more frequent messaging (around one per hour), while the final third will require near-real time communication. Hourly transmissions will be supported by the Sateliot nanosats in 2024 and continuous updates in 2025.