Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Satellite communication on smartphones is becoming the norm

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Jun20,2024

Satellite communication on smartphones is becoming the norm

The convergence of land mobile operators and satellite providers is becoming an industry norm, not a unique strategy: 91 cellular operators worldwide have now signed agreements with satellite providers.< /p>

Active contracts for the provision of mobile and satellite communications now cover about 60% of the global market of mobile subscribers, and reports of new agreements continue to arrive, according to GSMA Intelligence analysts. But the actual opportunity to use these services is not yet available. The general direction of the industry indicates a market shift away from the telecommunications companies themselves — satellites are seen as a pragmatic way to expand the network and access new sources of income.

The advantage of satellite communication is that it can work in regions where terrestrial networks do not reach, or where the coverage is uneven — 80-90% of connections between terrestrial mobile and satellite operators cover remote areas. Providing communication to subscribers at sea and providing emergency coverage in areas of natural disasters are considered additional directions.

Market dynamics over the past 18-24 months have been driven by developments in the field of direct access to modified mobile phones to satellites; in addition, the 3GPP consortium updated the 5G specifications, ensuring compatibility with orbital networks (NTN — Non-Terrestrial Networks). The integration of NTN compatibility in 3GPP Release 17 and 18 made direct access to scalable mobile networks — clients can be smartphones and sensors of the Internet of Things, which are also capable of directly connecting to satellites.

Only in the US market, the three largest mobile operators have already signed agreements with satellite communication service providers: Verizon and AT&T have joined forces with AST SpaceMobile, and T-Mobile US — with SpaceX's Starlink. Starlink currently has 17 active agreements, AST SpaceMobile — 24, and Lynk Global — 15. The deployment of services will take place gradually: at the initial stage, it will be voice communication and SMS, and then, as the satellite capacity increases, modernization will begin, which will ensure data transmission. Asia has the largest number of contracts, but in general the presence of satellite operators is gradually distributed.

The undisputed leader is Starlink, which has about 6,000 satellites in orbit, but only recently launched devices support direct phone connection. The second place is occupied by Eutelsat OneWeb, which group consists of 650 devices. AST SpaceMobile has only one satellite in orbit so far, and that's a test one — she has not bred commercial BlueBirds yet. Amazon-owned operator Project Kuiper currently has two test satellites in orbit.

The dark horse is China, whose operator China Satellite Network Group intends to launch 12,000 satellites, but compares directly with it is not easy for other players: this provider probably enjoys comprehensive government support and will work in China, while others count on international markets. . One way or another, satellite communication becomes an addition to mobile, and it is not yet clear how this symbiosis will be implemented: as an additional service from terrestrial operators, or to include it in existing plans.

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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