Non-terrestrial network (NTN) connectivity is revolutionizing the Internet of Things (IoT) landscape, offering unprecedented deployment flexibility for connected devices. With the integration of NTN into IoT chipsets, devices now have the capability to establish connections directly with satellites, bypassing traditional terrestrial networks. This technological leap introduces both stand-alone chips dedicated to satellite communication and hybrid chipsets that support dual connectivity.
Understanding the Importance of NTN
While legacy cellular networks provide extensive coverage, their reach is predominantly population-centric, leaving vast geographic expanses underserved. Satellite connectivity has long offered a solution to this gap, albeit at a prohibitive cost, confining its application to niche areas such as broadcasting. Recent advancements have significantly reduced the costs associated with NTN solutions, making satellite communication a viable and economical choice for IoT deployments, ensuring ubiquitous connectivity.
NTN: A Communication Channel of Choice
NTN connectivity has become increasingly attractive for various applications beyond emergency networks and peak-time terrestrial network offloading. Industries such as automotive, energy, agriculture, maritime, and railway now benefit from global communication capabilities. For instance, hybrid cellular/NTN devices provide critical connectivity for extreme sports enthusiasts venturing beyond cellular reach, while remote installations like maritime shipments and offshore rigs rely on NTN for continuous monitoring and control.
Standards and Trends in Satellite IoT
The 3GPP has laid the groundwork for the integration of broadband and IoT-NTN, with initiatives starting as early as releases 15 and 16, and continuing into release 17. This standardization paves the way for the growth of the NTN market. IoT Analytics predicts a compound annual growth rate of 22% for satellite IoT subscribers from 2021 to 2026, highlighting the expanding role of NTN in the IoT domain.
Comparing GEO and LEO Satellite Systems
IoT/M2M communication services traditionally rely on Geostationary Equatorial Orbit (GEO) and Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. LEO satellites, favored for their lower latency and cost-effective deployment, are rapidly gaining preference among operators. Conversely, GEO satellites offer broader coverage with fewer units, albeit with higher latency. While LEO constellations promise near real-time applications, their limited number poses challenges for continuous global connectivity, a gap that GEO satellites fill more effectively despite their latency.
Looking Ahead: The Future of IoT NTN
The trajectory for NTN technology appears promising, with ongoing advancements aimed at enhancing connection efficiency and reducing operational costs. Innovations in low-power radio technology and modulation schemes are expected to bolster NTN connectivity, making LEO satellite services more accessible and affordable. As the landscape evolves, NTN connectivity is poised to become a cornerstone technology for connecting IoT devices in remote locations, transforming the possibilities for global device communication.
As NTN technology progresses, its integration into IoT applications is anticipated to expand, bridging connectivity gaps and fostering innovation across various sectors. The evolution of NTN connectivity underscores a significant shift towards comprehensive, global communication solutions, heralding a new era in IoT deployment.