What Does Satellite IoT Involve?

Satellite IoT refers to a specialized communication ecosystem that uses satellites orbiting the Earth to connect and exchange data with IoT devices. LEO or Low-Earth orbit is the most popular satellite network used for communication due to its high bandwidth and low latency. 

The Value and Types of Satellite Networks 

There are three primary types of satellite networks for IoT connectivity: 

  • Low Earth Orbit (LEO). These satellites have a smaller coverage area and complete an orbit around the Earth every 90 minutes, providing frequent service availability. The low orbital height results in significantly lower latency compared to Geostationary (GEO) satellites. 

  • Medium Earth Orbit (MEO). Positioned at a higher altitude than LEO satellites, MEO satellites provide broader coverage with slightly higher latency. 

  • Geostationary (GEO). GEO satellites remain stationary relative to the Earth's position and offer global coverage, but with higher latency due to their greater orbital distance. 

Orbit Type 

Altitude Range 

Coverage Area 

Orbit Period 

Latency 

Common Use Cases 

LEO 

180 km to 2,000 km 

Smaller, regional 

Approximately 90 min 

Low 

Earth observation, remote sensing, scientific research, some telecommunications applications 

MEO 

2,000 km to 35,786 km 

Larger, regional to global 

Several hours 

Moderate 

Navigation systems (e.g., GPS), communication services 

GEO 

Approximately 35,786 km 

Global 

Approximately 24 hours (synchronized with Earth's rotation) 

High 

Television broadcasting, internet services, weather monitoring, long-distance communication 

How Does Satellite IoT Work? 

Satellite IoT operates through connectivity between IoT devices, such as sensors or trackers, and orbiting satellites. These IoT devices are responsible for gathering data or executing specific tasks, and their collected data is transmitted to satellites through specialized communication protocols, such as LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network), MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport), CoAP (Constrained Application Protocol), NB-IoT (Narrowband IoT), Sigfox, Iridium Short Burst Data (SBD), Globalstar Simplex. Afterward, the satellite data is received by the ground stations, is further processed and becomes accessible to end-users via applications.  

Satellite IoT VS Cellular IoT 

Aspect 

Cellular IoT 

Satellite IoT 

Connectivity Technology 

Utilizes existing cellular networks (3G, 4G LTE, or 5G) 

Relies on communication with satellites orbiting the Earth 

LPWAN Technology 

NB-IoT, LTE-M (Low-Power Wide Area Network) 

LoRaWAN, Sigfox (Low-Power Wide Area Network) 

Coverage Area 

Limited to regions covered by cellular networks 

Offers global coverage, including remote and inaccessible areas 

Deployment 

Requires proximity to cellular infrastructure 

Can be deployed anywhere, independent of terrestrial infrastructure 

Latency 

Generally lower latency due to terrestrial proximity 

Slightly higher latency due to signal travel to/from satellites 

Data Rates 

Higher data rates with 4G/5G cellular technologies 

Typically lower data rates compared to terrestrial cellular networks 

Power Consumption 

Consumes more power due to cellular radio operation 

May offer power-efficient options for low-power IoT devices 

Initial Costs 

Relatively lower initial setup costs 

May have higher initial setup costs for satellite connectivity 

Use Cases 

Urban and suburban IoT applications with cellular coverage 

Remote and rural applications, maritime and aviation, disaster recovery, remote monitoring 

What Are IoT Satellite Use Cases? 

  • Marine Telematics. Devices like Iridium's satellite-based trackers enable tracking of shipping containers, vessels, and vehicles during ocean voyages, providing essential data for logistics and safety purposes. 

  • Smart Agriculture. Globalstar's SmartOne Solar and similar devices offer low-power, solar-powered satellite tracking for agricultural assets in remote areas, with real-time monitoring and optimizing farm operations. 

  • Remote Oil Rigs. In remote offshore oil drilling operations, devices like Inmarsat's BGAN terminals provide reliable satellite communications for data transmission and crew communication. 

  • Mining Operations. IoT satellite modems such as Orbcomm's enable mining companies to track heavy equipment, monitor environmental conditions, and enhance safety in remote mining areas. 

  • Construction Equipment.  Globalstar's SPOT Trace Solution enables tracking construction equipment and assets in locations where terrestrial connectivity is limited. 

  • Transportation Telematics. Iridium Edge Pro allows real-time tracking and monitoring of vehicles and containers across transportation routes, even in remote areas.