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.
Common Use Cases
180 km to 2,000 km
Approximately 90 min
Earth observation, remote sensing, scientific research, some telecommunications applications
2,000 km to 35,786 km
Larger, regional to global
Navigation systems (e.g., GPS), communication services
Approximately 35,786 km
Approximately 24 hours (synchronized with Earth's rotation)
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
Utilizes existing cellular networks (3G, 4G LTE, or 5G)
Relies on communication with satellites orbiting the Earth
NB-IoT, LTE-M (Low-Power Wide Area Network)
LoRaWAN, Sigfox (Low-Power Wide Area Network)
Limited to regions covered by cellular networks
Offers global coverage, including remote and inaccessible areas
Requires proximity to cellular infrastructure
Can be deployed anywhere, independent of terrestrial infrastructure
Generally lower latency due to terrestrial proximity
Slightly higher latency due to signal travel to/from satellites
Higher data rates with 4G/5G cellular technologies
Typically lower data rates compared to terrestrial cellular networks
Consumes more power due to cellular radio operation
May offer power-efficient options for low-power IoT devices
Relatively lower initial setup costs
May have higher initial setup costs for satellite connectivity
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.