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Satellite Connectivity A Hot New Category For Retailers

A hot new category for retailers and carriers in 2024 and beyond, is tipped to be satellite activated mobile phones and notebooks, and in the future Amazon satellite dishes that deliver high speed broadband for both homes and business.

Space X owned Starlink has quietly started advertising its direct to mobile service on its website, promising connectivity to existing LTE phones ‘wherever you can see the sky and carriers such as Optus and Telstra are are aleady setting up for a satellite communication future.

Direct to mobile works with existing LTE phones with no changes to hardware, firmware, or special apps required.

ChannelNews understands that Samsung is also looking to incorporate new network connectivity chips into their premium smartphones. Apple is also incorporating satellite technology into their iPhones.

Starlink will offer text services shortly followed by voice, data and IoT connectivity in 2025.

Overnight Amazon said the prototype satellites for its Project Kuiper internet venture are operating normally after their first week in orbit.

The two satellites were drawing power from their solar panels and communicating consistently with Amazon’s terminal on the ground, the company said.

“We’re already learning a lot from this mission that will inform further improvements to our production systems, and the team should be very proud of this milestone,” Rajeev Badyal, the Amazon vice president who leads the Kuiper team, said in the statement.

In Australia there is the real possibility that satellite could replace tower connectivity within the next 24 months with both Telstra and Optus already signing up to the Starlink service.

What was initially perceived as a solution for rural Australia is now being seen as a way for metropolitan Australia to get access to broadband and mobile services.

Foxtel has been delivering their services over satellite dishes for several years with little if any interruptions to services.

Now carriers in Australia are working on the notion of eliminating tower services in select areas of Australia, in favour of satellite communication in the future.

Basically, anywhere you are outside you will be able to use your existing LTE phone to tap into the satellite service, the obvious benefit being if you are out in the wilderness somewhere without terrestrial coverage.

Starlink satellites with Direct to Cell capability are loaded with an eNodeB modem that acts like a cell phone tower in space, ‘allowing network integration similar to a standard roaming partner.’

US owned Starlink direct is expected to be the first to deliver advanced satellite connectivity.

“SpaceX is leveraging its experience in manufacturing and launching the world’s most advanced rockets and spacecraft to deploy Starlink satellites with the Direct to Cell capability at scale. Direct to Cell satellites will initially be launched on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and then Starship. On orbit the satellites will immediately connect over laser backhaul to the Starlink constellation to provide global connectivity.” an executive for the Company said recently.

In August last year, Elon Musk and T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert announced, ‘Coverage Above and Beyond’ a joint project which promised to ‘bring cell phone connectivity everywhere’.

The project appears to have experienced a name change in the intervening time, and additional operator partners are now listed on new online site including Optus in Australia, Rogers in Canada, One NZ in New Zealand, KDDI in Japan, and Salt in Switzerland.

On the downside Peter Kibutu, from Advanced Technology said “Starlink continues to set ambitious targets for its satellite network, however, its plans to deliver a direct-to-cell service requires scrutiny. Offering connectivity supported by unmodified 4G handsets might only result in low-bandwidth data and voice services, falling short of contemporary data demands and user experience.

“Delivering satellite connectivity akin to what we can experience today on 4G and 5G devices will require the 3GPP-compliant 5G NR NTN waveform, which is continuously optimised to maximise the performance of direct to handset services over LEO satellite constellations.

Starlink has made it clear that it will continue to use its own proprietary technology which, while providing it with speed to market, could present roadblocks in years to come as it struggles to support high-performance connectivity services and use cases that will be readily available via other satellite operator’s 5G NTN networks. It will be interesting to see if Starlink will also be looking to develop services that leverage industry best practices and incorporate a wider ecosystem.”

Amazon on the other hand is looking to operate an alternate method of delivering satellite services.

In the next phase of their initial mission Amazon is set to test their data network end to end. This involves routing data from the internet, through their existing Amazon Web Services (AWS)-powered ground network, from a ground gateway antenna up to their prototype satellites, and then down to customer terminal antennas.

These antennas which could be available to buy from retailers as well as Amazon, they will come in different sizes including large ones for use on buildings that can deliver 400-600Mbs with smaller Amazon dishes delivering 200Mbs.

Retailers such as JB Hi Fi and The Good Guys are already selling other Amazon hardware products.



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