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5G NB-IoT NTN Coverage Extension by Sateliot

Sateliot is a 5G NB-IoT NTN (Rel. 17) Coverage Extension satellite operator in SSO Low Earth Orbit for wholesale service to MNO (NB-IoT Coverage Extension). They claims to be the first satellite operator to offer IoT connectivity over standard 5G NB-IoT. According to this presentation, they have been a member of 3GPP since 2019, being, among space companies, the major contributor to the Rel. 17 IoT NTN Study Item.

In April 2023, Sateliot successfully launched The GroundBreaker, the first-ever satellite under 5G Standard to Democratize IoT, via SpaceX Falcon 9. The GroundBreaker is the first of a 250 LEO satellite constellation, which will work as cell towers from space.

In July 2022, Telefónica announced that it's collaborating with Sateliot through its divisions Telefónica Tech and Telefónica Global Solutions (TGS). The eventual goal being the development of an innovative connectivity service with dual 5G NB-IoT technology in which Sateliot's new satellite network will be integrated with Telefónica Tech's current terrestrial NB-IoT networks to offer IoT connectivity wherever the customer needs it, including maritime coverage.

A year later, in July 2023, TelecomTV reported on the Telefónica and Sateliot 5G roaming breakthrough claim in space:

In a test overseen by the European Space Agency (ESA), the two partners provided satellite coverage extension to Telefónica’s cellular network through standard GSMA roaming. They used a regular SIM card (run on Telefónica’s Kite platform – a managed connectivity solution developed by the operator’s digital technology and services division, Telefónica Tech) on an internet of things (IoT) cellular device, which was able to “seamlessly” switch to Sateliot’s network of low-earth orbit (LEO) 5G IoT satellite constellation.

A two-step store-and-forward authentication method was also implemented during the test to support standard roaming with a mobile network operator (MNO) and this was then adapted to the non-terrestrial network in low-earth orbit (NTN LEO). This technology, according to the company, enables data storage when the satellite is not in a position to connect with a ground station, and forwards it as it is entering the coverage range. 

Telefónica added that the store-and-forward feature is suitable for its ‘delay-tolerant’ IoT services for its early-stage constellation, as it still has a limited number of satellites. “The test demonstrated successfully that a standard roaming connection can be authenticated by the Telefónica core through Sateliot networks,” the satellite company noted in a statement unveiling the move, adding that this development opens the door for “massive access to connectivity everywhere in the planet.”

And this is exactly where Telefónica’s ambitions fall into place: The telco is confident that in 2024, it will be the first MNO to provide its customers with narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) “everywhere-in-the-planet connectivity”. This offering will consist of a ‘seamless’ combination of cellular and satellite standard NB-IoT network, as well as “inexpensive commercial standard NB-IoT devices”.

Jaume Sanpera, CEO of Sateliot recenly gave a presentation that is embedded below. He starts with the claim that 80% of the world is still not connected by mobile but we think that around 90% of earth lack any kind of connectivity (Tweet ☝️):

There is also a good list of IoT applications here that they plan on covering, and in general, satellite based IoT can support.

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