Sequans works with aerospace and defense contractor Lockheed Martin to adapt LTE chips to communicate with satellite systems
Sequans is modifying its LTE chipsets to be able to directly communicate with satellite systems, in a partnership with Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed developed an LTE-to-satellite specification, and Sequans is adapting its LTE chipsets to support that — which the companies called a “world-first achievement with wide application,” although they went on to specifically discuss the internet of things applications that could benefit from geostationary satellite connectivity.
While satellite comms have been used for backhauling LTE systems — such as vehicle-based LTE deployables for temporary coverage or for use in disaster recovery, or smaller backpack-based versions of such systems — LTE devices themselves haven’t been able to directly connect to satellite systems. But there is a fast-developing market for global IoT connectivity — BIS Research analysis says that the global satellite machine-to-machine and IoT network market generated $617.3 million in 2017 and its compound annual growth rate is estimated at 32.6% through 2023 — which could provide opportunities for LTE over satellite.
Scott Landis, a director at Lockheed Martin, said that LTE to satellite “represents an important breakthrough in mobility and connectivity.”
“The work we are doing with Lockheed Martin to integrate LTE with satellite represents a significant evolution as we modify our LTE chips to take advantage of the huge satellite opportunity now developing for M2M and IoT applications,” Georges Karam, Sequans CEO. “Enabling the LTE modem to speak to satellite networks as simply and as easily as possible will have a major impact on handling the huge potential volume of broadband and IoT applications that require space-based, ubiquitous communications, such as connected cars, shipping, and navigation.”
Sequans and Lockheed Martin aren’t the only ones interested in leveraging LTE devices and satellite communications. A small start-up called Ubiquitilink has floated the idea of enabling smartphones — via modifications to existing wireless software stacks — to communicate with a constellation of low-earth-orbit satellites. It has launched its first satellite and plans to launch two to three dozen of them by 2021 and several thousand by 2023, in order to establish global coverage that the company’s founder claims can be achieved for less than $5 per person. Such a satellite-based system of basic coverage, the company says, would “allow MNOs to monetize service to rural areas while also attracting new customers who previously didn’t have mobile service.”