Joe Madden

I noticed SpaceX launch 60 Starlink satellites lately… and standing on the bottom beneath the rocket, I may FEEL the ability of the rocket. Thrilling! The advances in expertise to re-use rocket engines have made rocketry a enterprise, after 80 years as a science mission.

So, the rocket enterprise is blasting off, however what about these satellite tv for pc constellations? I’ve been skeptical about the marketplace for satellite-based broadband connectivity over the previous 25 years as a result of I witnessed firsthand the disasters of the Iridium and Globalstar enterprise plans within the Nineteen Nineties. The failures of those first techniques got here all the way down to easy economics: Within the late Eighties, when the initiatives had been began, cellular voice connectivity was priced at $1 per minute. However by 1998, when the techniques had been launched, voice connectivity had dropped under $0.10 per minute.    

If we fast-forward to 2020, we now have individuals like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos launching satellites with dozens of improvements to make the launches and the satellites cheaper. Have the economics modified? Can they actually compete with Verizon and NTT DoCoMo?

Sponsored by SNS Telecom

Shared & Unlicensed Spectrum within the 5G Period

Learn the way shared and unlicensed spectrum will rework mobile communications within the 5G period. That includes enabling applied sciences, key tendencies, enterprise fashions, purposes, spectrum availability, case research and 5G NR/LTE tools forecasts.

In the present day, voice connectivity just isn’t the principle driver. We have now moved on to knowledge connectivity, so the related metrics are the fee per GB of information delivered, and the fee per sq. kilometer of protection. Our evaluation of those prices reveals some attention-grabbing comparisons:

  • A satellite tv for pc constellation might be cheap when it comes to price per sq. kilometer. The place terrestrial techniques (utilizing a low-cost Open RAN 5G resolution in a distant space of a third-world nation) prices roughly $15,000 per sq. kilometer, a satellite-based system might be less expensive, at about $1,200 per sq. kilometer. The ORAN tools is affordable, so the distinction comes principally from the price of backhaul, safety, and offering energy to distant towers.
    Mobile Experts chart 1
  • Nonetheless, the fee per GB could be a main problem. The place an ORAN-based community can ship knowledge at about $1.40 per GB (that is artificially excessive due to backhaul/energy price in distant areas), the satellites present knowledge for roughly $5-8 per GB. Satellites spend a whole lot of time over oceans and uninhabited areas, so the utilization of radio capability is low…. making every GB very costly.
    Mobile Experts chart 2

The issue, then, is the price of the precise knowledge delivered. At $5-8 per GB, will probably be very troublesome to earn money. A $99/month plan will solely cowl 10-20 GB per thirty days, which isn’t sufficient for the video streaming that rural clients need.  it one other approach, there will not be sufficient worldwide clients at $99 per thirty days to pay for the constellation, as a result of a $10-20 cellular plan works significantly better for most individuals worldwide.

In the long run, we anticipate that Starlink, OneWeb, Kuiper and different satellite tv for pc ventures to declare chapter, similar to Iridium and Globalstar. They merely can’t compete in mainstream markets the place 5G will deliver data at $0.20 per GB or much less.

However chapter is the place the story will get attention-grabbing. At that time, we may have hundreds of satellites orbiting the Earth, successfully free. Needless to say chapter is not going to trigger the satellites to instantly crash into the Earth. While you eradicate the entire up-front prices of launch, {hardware} and software program improvement, and floor station setup, these networks can be less expensive. I predict that someday within the 2030 timeframe we are going to see new house owners emerge with these satellites as an excellent low-cost resolution in rural markets.

On the finish of the story, we anticipate to see satellite tv for pc choices as one other a part of the hetnet. Within the “layer cake” that has grow to be so well-known, a cellular operator will have the ability to add a super-coverage layer, lastly augmenting their protection of inhabitants facilities with full protection all over the place. We merely have to attend for the bankruptcies to occur first.

If you wish to see Cellular Consultants publish some analytical analysis to foretell how satellites and terrestrial networks will converge, please get in touch to let me know.

Joe Madden is principal analyst at Cellular Consultants, a community of market and expertise consultants that analyze wi-fi markets. 

“Trade Voices” are opinion columns written by outdoors contributors—typically business consultants or analysts—who’re invited to the dialog by FierceWireless employees. They don’t characterize the opinions of FierceWireless.