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The Evolution of 5G Satellite Internet And the Internet of Things (IoT)- Bridging the Digital Divide

With no other options available for internet services, people living in rural areas are depended solely upon the satellite internet

Satellite internet is the internet accessed with the help of communication satellites such as geostationary satellites orbiting the Earth. Viasat, HughesNet, and Starlink are some examples of satellite internet providers. This a great option for people living in rural areas where the telecom infrastructure with cable, fiber, or DSL internet providers isn’t well-established. It provides access to information and connectivity for people living in remote areas of the planet. Satellite internet service is probably not suitable for people living in cities, as they have several faster and cheaper internet options easily available. Our analysis reported that the total percentage of the population living in rural areas accounted for 43 percent in the year 2022. The best satellite internet service providers offer more than 250 Mbps download speeds and unlimited data. As this type of connection provides global coverage, it is location-independent. The next generation of satellites - built with 5G architecture - is set to increase connectivity in cars, airplanes, and other IoT devices in remote and rural areas.

The Primary Components of Satellite Internet are -

  • Satellite in the geosynchronous equatorial orbit
  • Ground stations that relay data to and from the satellite
  • Dish antenna with transceiver at the customer’s location

Benefits of Satellite Internet
  • Availability- Once a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite system is placed orbiting the Earth, customers will always be able to access satellite services from anywhere in the world.
  • Accessibility- Around 35% of the global population doesn’t have access to the internet. For people who can’t access other types of internet service, satellite internet is the ideal choice. As all that is required for satellite internet is a small satellite dish and satellite modem & the internet connection.
  • Faster Speeds- Satellite internet speeds are faster than dial-up internet and some other types of internet that are available in rural areas. Satellite internet offers ample speeds required for remote working, conferencing, and video streaming.
  • Feasibility- Building a vast cable infrastructure that provides internet access to every home in the world would cost billions of dollars. It is estimated that laying fiber optic cable costs over USD 25,000 per mile. Setting up satellite internet connectivity will work out cheaper compared to deploying millions of miles of fiber optic cable.
  • Negligible Network Outages- When compared to other internet options, there are fewer network outages in the case of satellite internet.
  • Secure Communication- Encryption units at hub stations and user terminals provide secure communication. This enhances reliability and offers greater protection.
Disadvantages of Satellite Internet
  • High Costs- Installation, repairs, and equipment can be more expensive than traditional internet services.
  • Satellite Internet Latency- When it comes to satellite internet, data travels long distances between the Earth and satellites. Even the data traveling at the speed of light is bound to take an extra second or so. This delay between the time the data was requested, for instance, by clicking on a webpage address, and when the outcome is displayed changes with the distance of the satellite from the Earth. For instance, latency is greater with High-Earth orbit satellites such as Viasat which is farther away from the Earth than with a Low-Earth orbit satellite like Starlink.
  • Satellite Internet Data Restrictions- Most satellite companies, except for a few new LEO satellite internet businesses restrict data usage, setting a maximum use limit, which creates a lot of frustration among customers.
  • Difficulty in Troubleshooting Faults and Failures- Repairs and maintenance require advanced knowledge of satellite and VSAT technologies.
  • External Influences- Bad weather conditions, such as rain, thunderstorm, hailstorm, blizzard, and so on, might have an impact on the strength of satellite connectivity. Satellite signals can get weakened by obstructions such as tree branches and buildings in the path of signal transmission. Our analysis stated that disaster-related to climate, weather, or water hazards happened over the past 50 years every day on average causing nearly USD 200 Million losses daily. Due to these disadvantages, satellite IoT is being developed to complement the cellular IoT and create combined hybrid networks instead of replacing terrestrial networks completely.

LEO satellites

Traditional communication satellites have been in orbit for more than 50 years and weigh more than 1000kg. They remain in a fixed position which allows ground-based antennas to point directly at the satellite. The Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites are miniaturized and weigh under 500kg. Due to its low orbit, latency is considerably reduced. LEO Satellites play a vital role in expanding cellular 5G networks to air, sea, and other remote areas which are currently not covered by traditional cellular networks. They will offer a seamless extension of 5G services from the city to airplanes, cruise liners, farms, mines, and other remote worksites. Integrating satellites with the 5G infrastructure is expected to enhance the Quality of Experience (QoE) of high-performance applications. If 5G infrastructure is damaged due to natural or manmade disasters, satellite networks can step up and maintain the network flow. Satellites can support IoT owing to their wide coverage and broadcast capabilities.

Multicast On-Demand Streaming

Satellite communication has always been a media broadcasting service. Now, the accessibility to the internet and smartphones has shifted the media content from live television broadcasts to on-demand streaming. 5G-enabled satellites will enable the smooth delivery and low latency of enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) applications such as 8K video streaming and online VR/AR gaming.

Satellites and IoT

Traditional IoT devices use cellular networks to connect to the internet, but these networks are unavailable in remote locations. For instance, an oil or gas production platform or a rig in the middle of the ocean or a desert or in the mountains. IoT’s use cases have expanded to applications that include monitoring of power plants and oil and gas pipelines, farming operations, point-of-sale and security solutions, etc. Insufficient and expensive network coverage disables many businesses from reaching remote assets. Satellites can offer superior quality services to high-speed platforms that can’t function solely using terrestrial network systems, such as connected cars, airplanes, drones, etc., at optimum prices. LEO satellite constellations will augment terrestrial 5G infrastructure by increasing connectivity and providing continuous internet connection in the event of natural disasters. Networking services provided by satellite constellations are becoming more affordable and accessible. IoT services provided by satellites can improve scalability by providing a wide network range that covers hard-to-reach devices with limited or no access to terrestrial networks.

The Advantages of Satellite IoT’s Scalability -
  • Tracking containers and goods transported via ships across the oceans or trucks traveling through difficult terrains, remote locations, etc.
  • Data are transmitted from scientific equipment and recording instruments utilized in areas that are inaccessible to humans such as buoys floating on seas, active volcanic vents, weather balloons, etc. to research base stations.
  • Controlling mining and agricultural equipment from a control room located far away from the actual site.
  • Monitoring pipeline networks that transport water, fuel gases, waste, etc. using satellite IoT-powered devices.

Satellite 5G

The next-generation wireless network technology, 5G, will support the realization of smart cities, smart environments, and big data applications. Within the 5G framework, the terrestrial services can be integrated with High Throughput Satellite (HTS) systems and mega-Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellations. Satellites will also pave the way for new applications such as smart agriculture, environmental protection, transportation, animal tracking, etc. The future of 5G will involve a multi-layer architecture where low-altitude drones, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and High Altitude Platforms (HAPs) can work in tandem to provide 5G coverage extension with the support of LEO and/or GEO satellites. 5G will be critical for the digital transformation of the global economy with its unparalleled extent of connectivity. It is launching newer applications that require rapid data transmission, high reliability, and quicker response time. A full-fledged 5G network can transmit data 20 times faster than the existing 4G LTE, and offer a latency of 1 millisecond, enabling real-time monitoring and feedback. 5G was developed with the main focus of enabling IoT use cases. In the future, billions of 5G IoT devices will require constant updates that necessitate an efficient distribution of data globally. Satellite Internet is equipped to support IoT by offering shared uplink connectivity, data aggregation, and IoT backup, thus promoting higher reliability in massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC), a new service category of 5G that can support higher connection density of online devices.

Space and the 5G IoT Value Proposition

Integrating 5G and satellite internet technologies into IoT applications will enhance their performance and radically transform various global sectors such as health, energy, telecommunication, and agriculture, to name a few. While the assimilation of these revolutionary technologies into systems and solutions that bring value to customers offers many opportunities for organizations. Also, they may need strategic advice to navigate the transformation caused by the advent of 5G and the enabling space technologies.

Conclusion

While the performance of satellite internet is not good right now but still the availability, and pricing of non-wired internet is moving them in the right direction over the next few years. Thus, it is offering exciting opportunities to remote areas by providing internet connectivity.

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swara-keni
Swara Keni

Head- Global Business Development

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