Space Commerce

Sateliot Aims Big For 5G Constellation With SpaceX Nanosatellite Launch

By Elizabeth Howell
April 11, 2023
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Sateliot Aims Big For 5G Constellation With SpaceX Nanosatellite Launch

Sateliot will send the first-ever telecommunications standard nanosatellite to space aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 Transporter-7 mission, the company told SpaceRef with exclusive information about their plans obtained in an interview.

This will be their second-ever nanosatellite, as they disclosed publicly on March 30. The satellite series aims to bring affordable global 5G connectivity remote areas all around the world, specifically to extend coverage on standard devices that have mobile connectivity at the affordable price of roughly $1 a month for users. The Spanish-based company has disclosed a partnership with large mobile operator Telefónica for such services, for example.

Sateliot was founded in 2018 in Barcelona and has grown quickly, with about 40 employees now compared to 25 a year ago. Roughly 25 million Euros in orders ($27 million USD) is already committed, CEO Jaume Sanpera told SpaceRef. The company has also raised a seed round of 2.5 million Euros ($2.7 million USD) and a Series A of 10 million Euros ($10.86 million USD).

By 2024, the company aims to have 64 satellites available with coverage occurring roughly every 20 minutes around the world, serving industries like logistics, pastoral agriculture or maritime that need frequent updates on movements. The constellation will operate in polar orbits at roughly 341 miles (550 km) in altitude.

The company has unique and patent-pending technology for two-step authentication that can connect to the satellite directly; Sateliot is also working closely with chipset manufacturers to make sure that their standard will be compatible with Internet of things (IoT) devices, Sanpera said.

One satellite covers roughly three times the area of Texas and the constellation will include 250 satellites; they have applied to the International Telecommunications Union for a full constellation of 500 satellites, Sanpera said. “What we plan is to be in 30 to 50 countries at the beginning of next year,” he added.

“Our plan is to be at 1 billion gross sales [in Euros] by 2026,” he added, “and to be operating in most of the countries of the world at the same time. We are signing with NGOs [non-governmental organizations] in order to deliver free of charge capacity, because it’s a connected world, it’s a better world, and we believe that we have to be part of the of the solution of all the challenges that face our planet.”

The IoT and 5G market is a lucrative and fast-growing opportunity, although the drawbacks are the number of big companies that are involved and the strict licensing process that accompanies the spectrum sale (as international authorities are trying to ensure non-interference with other bands.)

It’s not easy to balance these competing needs, due to the forecasted demand as well as how crowded networks are getting already. SpaceX, for example, has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reconsider using the 12 gigahertz (GHz) frequency band for 5G out of concern it may interfere with SpaceX’s Starlink satellite Internet service.

Just how big 5G will be varies vastly depending on what market report you consult, but regardless of source it appears that the opportunity could present at least a few hundred billion dollars of business around the world every year by 2030. Extending the reach to more remote and less rich populations will certainly extend the market, although the challenge for all participating businesses will be to extract profit without doing so to an extortionist extent.

That said, pairing 5G with the fast-evolving artificial intelligence market could provide a lot of value as it would allow service to fluctuate with demand. The fastest-growing markets will likely include health care (especially as the global population ages), “smart utilities” (also growing fast as electricity demands go up and climate change forces smarter bets on carbon-neutral technology) and consumer media, although that area has been diminishing in recent months as pandemic lockdowns are easing and affecting companies like Netflix.

5G nevertheless does have potential to improve Internet service to higher speeds and to serve the fast-growing IoT market that is especially useful for tracking items in real time, even in remote areas. Sateliot, for example, has already signed an agreement with Sensefinity to track 1,000 “smart containers”, with forecasted savings of $1.4 million per year on container maintenance and repairs. Watch this space for more announcements on what Sateliot Io will be up to in the coming months.

Business and science reporter, researcher and consultant.