Mastering Satellite IoT Connectivity

August 30 | By Curtis Govan – floLIVE

Satellite connectivity extends coverage to achieve global connectivity, a critical advancement for IoT devices. This technology complements cellular connectivity by utilizing satellite networks such as LEO (Low Earth Orbit) and GEO (Geostationary Equatorial Orbit), supporting new business use cases in rural or remote areas.

Traditionally, consumer and business connectivity relied on terrestrial networks, primarily cellular networks. Although a significant portion of the global population has cellular access, vast geographic areas—like seas, deserts, and mountainous regions—remain uncovered. Satellite connectivity bridges these gaps, providing a robust backup or alternative to cellular networks for IoT devices.

What are the benefits of using satellite connectivity?

Historically, satellite systems were expensive last-resort options due to high costs and significant administrative overhead. Consider consumer applications like satellite phones, used only when cellular coverage fails, or satellite dishes for additional TV channels. Introducing the iPhone 14, the first to offer satellite backup simplifies this: users can switch to satellite communication to call emergency services or send an SOS when out of cellular reach.

Similarly, in IoT, satellite connectivity requires proprietary hardware, leading to high costs and logistical nightmares. However, the 3GPP telecommunications standards body has enabled the convergence of cellular and satellite into a single solution via non-terrestrial network (NTN) standards released in their Release 17. By adopting 3GPP standards devices can use satellite connectivity with a simple firmware update, merging cellular and satellite connectivity under standardized protocols like NR-NTN and IoT NTN, facilitating broader adoption without additional hardware.

With satellites orbiting Earth and communicating through ground stations, satellite coverage can reach every corner of the globe, extending existing solutions, serving as a reliable backup, and offering connectivity in the most remote locations.

What is the difference between LEO and GEO?

Satellite connectivity varies by constellation, orbit type, frequency bands, latency, bandwidth, and communication protocols. The primary difference between LEO and GEO satellites is their orbital height. LEO satellites orbit between 400 and 2,000 km above Earth, facilitating lower latency communications around 50ms, ideal for real-time applications like environmental monitoring. In contrast, GEO satellites orbit at approximately 35,780 km, covering wider areas, and are suitable for use cases requiring stable, real-time data like healthcare or manufacturing.

Which use cases could benefit from satellite communication in IoT?

Virtually any remote application stands to gain from satellite connectivity. Examples include:

– Maritime: Enhancing eco-sustainability and security at sea with smart sensors and proactive vessel tracking.
– Energy & Utilities: Supporting solar and wind energy projects in remote locations, improving reliability and grid management.
– Mining: Extending coverage to rural mining sites for better regulatory compliance and safety.
– Agriculture: Enabling precision farming through automated systems and detailed environmental data.
– Shipping and Logistics: Guaranteeing connectivity for vessel tracking and real-time communication.
– Transportation: Filling coverage gaps in remote areas is crucial for emergency services and autonomous vehicles.

How can CommsCloud support customers with satellite services?

CommsCloud extends global connectivity, merging cellular and satellite networks. Through partnerships with satellite operators like Skylo and Sateliot, we offer seamless transitions between cellular and satellite coverage via the same CloudConnect Simcard, ensuring reliability and optimizing costs. This unified approach allows 24/7 support and real-time data access, making CommsCloud an ideal partner for any industry’s IoT needs.

CommsCloud IoT Connectivity Solutions | Empowering Your Business to Connect, Grow, and Thrive – Contact Us | +27 21 551 5526 or  Get in Touch and follow our journey across Africa with the social media links below.