SpaceX has launched what is reportedly the first satellite in low Earth orbit (LEO) to operate with the 5G cellular standard. Known as The GroundBreaker, is a 10 kilogram orbital data relay. Sateliot_0, is the first of a constellation of over 250 spacecraft designed to communicate with terrestrial cellular towers and bridge gaps in data networks worldwide.
Sateliot’s industrial plan
Sateliot, based in Barcelona and the network operator of the Sateliot_X constellation, sees this technology as an opportunity for global realization for access to the Internet of Things (IoT). A Falcon 9 rocket on April 15 launched the 5G satellite from SpaceX’s launch facility at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
“For the first time in history, terrestrial cellular telecommunications are seamlessly merging with satellite connectivity and Sateliot is leading this revolution” Sateliot wrote in a press release (ref.). The company’s goal is to bridge the 85% gap in mobile connectivity worldwide. Additionally, the company expects applications for multiple public and private markets, including road, rail, air, and maritime transport.
By linking IoT to a cohesive network between terrestrial and orbital cellular relays, Sateliot hopes to expand the possibilities of connected devices. “Users will be able to seamlessly transition from a terrestrial 5G network to a non-terrestrial one, without the need to purchase any additional hardware, such as antennas or modems. Additionally, they will be able to continue using their current SIM cards and mobile operators, thanks to roaming standard agreements made by Sateliot. This paves the way for massive adoption of the Internet of Things worldwide,” the company wrote in the statement.
Sateliot_0 is the first of these company satellites, but as the constellation expands, each spacecraft will orbit around the Earth every 90 minutes, providing coverage areas three times larger than Texas. While its first satellite comes online, Sateliot already boasts sales of over $1.3 billion. The Iberian company has not announced the next launch date, but a hint can be found on the company’s website pages, which include an image of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launching in the background.
Also for this company, the chosen official launcher is SpaceX, which will help Sateliot build the world’s first 5G satellite network. The number of these planned or in-development mega constellations continues to grow. In addition to SpaceX’s well-known Starlink broadband satellites, the European Union and China have their own constellations in the works. Even online retailer and web services giant Amazon plans to launch its own, known as Project Kuiper, starting in 2024.