Sateliot claims 50 MNO/MVNO customers

Sateliot, the startup focused on making space-based connectivity part of the 5G standard, said it has signed customer agreements with 50 mobile service providers and with an IoT service provider called S4IoT. S4IoT is a Mexican company targeting several industries including agriculture, and one of its customers is BeeWaze, a Chilean company trying to improve global food security through digital monitoring of beehives and pollination.

Farmers pay beekeepers to pollinate their crops, but they often lack a way to remotely monitor this activity. This is the type of use case Sateliot IoT is targeting with software that can integrate IoT devices and satellites with the core networks of mobile operators. This means beehives outside MNO coverage areas can connect to the mobile networks via satellite, enabling beekeepers and farmers to use their smartphones to track pollination.

According to BeeWaze, farmers can use its technology to track the number of bees who swarm around their crops each minute. Beekeepers can monitor the temperature, weight, and humidity of beehives, as well as the surrounding weather conditions. BeeWaze estimates that just 15% of the world’s beehives are currently monitored, and cited data from agricultural associations showing that vigorous pollination can increase crop yields by 40%-90%.

Onofre Tamargo, CEO of S4IoT, said the Sateliot solution will enable beekeepers to better protect their hives from destruction by intruders and pesticides. “This is further proof that technology can be good for agriculture and our food system,” he said in a press release.

Two pings per day

Sateliot founder and CEO Jaume Sanpera said BeeWaze is currently transmitting just 256 bytes of data per device, and only needs to send messages twice per day. He said the beekeepers are using tracking devices that cost less than $5.00/month.

Sanpera sees a huge market in enabling service providers to tap into this intermittent IoT data transmission. He estimates that one third of global IoT traffic comes from devices that only need to transmit twice per day.

Giving mobile network operators a way to support this traffic is the goal of Sateliot. Sanpera reasons operators can more easily charge customers for narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) services if they can include a roaming option for devices outside their network coverage areas. He successfully lobbied for NB-IoT and satellite/cellular integration in 3GPP Release 17.

“The standard makes everything so easy for the end users,” Sanpera said. “We are the #1 company of the space industry contributing to the 3GPP standard.”

But Sateliot can’t yet offer any real services because it has not launched any commercial satellites. Four of the company’s LEOs are scheduled for an October SpaceX launch, Sanpera said, and two test satellites are already in orbit. 

Targeting end users 

In addition to IoT service providers like S4IoT, which make their own deals with MNOs, Sateliot will work directly with MNOs and MVNOs. The only carrier customer Sanpera could name was Telefónica. but he said there are 49 others. He said he gets the attention of service providers by marketing connectivity to the end users who need it.

“We are going to invoice the MNOs and MVNOs, but what we’ve been doing is signing binding contracts with final customers,” he explained. “We give it to the MNOs and MVNOs, and we invoice the IoT operators, not the final customers.”

Sanpera said Sateliot has more than €50 million in binding orders signed, and added that the average ARPU for each connected device will be $2.50/month. To support all this, he needs to launch a lot more satellites. Sanpera wants to launch 60 additional LEOs by the end of next year, and said his company will rely on SpaceX for all its launches.