NB-IoT over satellite project launched

Business news |
By Ally Winning

Satellite network provider Skylo has teamed up with Sony Semiconductor Israel (formerly Altair Semiconductor) to develop and cellular IoT chipsets that connect via geostationary satellites using the 5G NB-IoT protocol.

The partnership will also make significant contributions to 3GPP future specifications for the adoption of NB-IoT over satellite. The two companies say this will dramatically reduce the cost for IoT applications to connect via traditional satellite networks using custom protocols.

Skylo is building an efficient, global NB-IoT network over satellite for millions of presently unconnected devices, machines, and sensors. The deal allows the existing Sony cellular IoT chipsets to communicate directly over Skylo’s hosted geostationary satellite network. This differs from the IoT networks being developed using constellations of satellites in low earth orbit (LEO).

“For industries with assets deployed all over the globe — including marine vessels, vehicles, and industrial equipment — having access to a ubiquitous fabric of carrier-grade, affordable IoT connectivity that is enabled by Sony’s Altair cellular IoT chipsets is a game-changer,” said Dr. Andrew Nuttall, Skylo’s co-founder, and CTO. “This partnership ensures our ability to quickly scale the manufacturing and deployment of connector Skylo Hubs to our customers worldwide.”

Skylo has raised $116m so far, although the lead investor is ARM-owner Softbank along with Boeing HorizonX, Innovation Endeavors, and DCM Ventures.

“We are glad to collaborate with Sony Semiconductor Israel on this important technological breakthrough, which provides an entirely new connectivity method for IoT for customers around the world and contributes greatly to the development of future 3GPP standards,” said Moshe Noah, Vice President of Engineering at Skylo.

“We are excited to work with Skylo and launch an entirely new IoT category for industrial machines,” said Dima Feldman, Vice President of Product Management and Marketing at Sony Semiconductor Israel. “We’re impressed by the innovative way that Skylo has extended our chip functionality over satellites to expand the connectivity reach to the most remote locations. We look forward to helping Skylo bring billions of sensors online for the first time.”

“In addition, the Altair field-proven, ultra-low-power, and ultra-small chipset solutions are ideal for the type of data exchange for industrial use cases,” added Feldman.

The IoT architecture uses Bluetooth and WiFi to connect existing sensors to the Skylo Hub portable satellite NB-IoT antenna terminal using existing communications protocols. Adding Skylo’s satellite connectivity is a seamless extension for customers that, in addition to terrestrial networks, can now use satellite connectivity, virtually in any place on the planet. The volume production of the Sony cellular IoT chipsets means Skylo can affordably manufacture the Hub with an end cost of under US$100.

Skylo is launching commercially this year over South Asia aiming at sensors and machines in remote areas across a wide range of industries, including agriculture, fishing, railways, logistics, utility infrastructure, and more.

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