How Big Will Satellite IoT Be?

All executives from mid-size to enterprise firms in agriculture, surveyed by Vanson Bourne on behalf of Inmarsat, believe they will be using  internet of things apps and services within about five years.

Some 85 percent of executives in transportation industries believe they will be using IoT apps and services within five years, and nearly that many in the energy business. In the mining business, perhaps 65 percent of respondents believe they will be using IoT in five years.

You are not likely surprised by such findings. Given the hype around internet of things, it would be a rare executive who thought it “sounded right” to project no use of such capabilities.

Neither are you likely surprised that Inmarsat might sponsor such research. No less than other segments of the communications industry, satellite firms argue they will be relevant for IoT, largely because of coverage capabilities. Basically, that is the newest form of the “no one platform is best for all scenarios” argument.

It remains to be seen which satellite implementations are workable for which IoT apps.

“Despite growing demand for IoT satellite services, the business case for IoT exclusive satellite constellations has yet to be proven, especially considering the exponential growth of LPWANs, LTE-M and NB-IoT terrestrial networks for IoT,” says Alan Weissberger of the IEEE ComSoc blog.

Obviously, geostationary platforms are going to have huge problems supporting ultra-low latency apps. Low earth orbit (LEO) constellations arguably will fit a wider range of missions. Low-bandwidth, non-time-sensitive apps might fit best, for any satellite platforms.

Satellite market researcher NSR predicts transportation apps will be the biggest application.


Broadcast (multicast) has been the geostationary satellite network’s fundamental architecture, so multicast apps will make sense, though that is perhaps not an IoT app at all. In other cases, some argue satellite has a role for connected car communications, possibly for multicast use cases.

Some will note that satellite presently serves a niche role in end user communications, serving ships at sea and remote areas where other networks do not reach. That is likely to be the case for most geostationary satellite future apps as well. It is not yet clear how big a role LEO constellations will have.

Expect to hear a lot of promotion from the satellite industry about that industry’s role in internet of things. It will be small, it is safe to say. Satellite researcher NSR projects satellite industry revenue from IoT at less than $3 billion globally by 2026. And that might be highly optimistic.



Some estimate the global IoT connectivity market will be an insignificant fraction of total IoT revenues by about 2025, NSR projects global satellite revenues from IoT might reach about $3.5 billion by 2026.

In that same year, total global satellite connectivity revenues might represent less than $20 billion in revenue. So NSR estimates IoT will represent as much as 17 percent of total satellite industry revenues.

By about 2025, some estimate mobile operator IoT connection revenue of $22 billion. Total global communications service provider revenues should be about US$1 trillion by then.

Also, projections for service provider enterprise connections must contend with the possible use of Wi-Fi or other access mechanisms which do not incrementally increase connection revenue in a direct sense, if at all.

The bottom line is that satellite IoT is at present as uncertain as mobile or fixed network IoT connection revenue might be.

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