September 28, 2023
O2 Germany plans to launch a hybrid satellite and terrestrial Internet of Things service in Q1 2024.
It has brought in US-based Skylo to help with the heavy lifting. Rather than operate its own satellite network, Skylo partners with them instead. Acting as a middleman, it offers what is essentially a hotspot that connects to devices over narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), and then provides a link from those devices to orbiting satellites.
Telefónica’s hybrid service will be enabled by an integrated SIM (iSIM) card loaded with a Skylo NTN profile. It will initially be available in North America and Europe, followed by other regions at a later date. It is pitched at companies that want to monitor and control devices on a global scale, even in locations where terrestrial NB-IoT coverage is not available.
In addition to Skylo, Telefónica said it plans to establish further partnerships with satellite IoT operators by the end of this year.
“Our collaboration with Skylo is an important building block. Together with Skylo, we can now offer our customers one-stop IoT networking solutions even in remote areas,” said Karsten Pradel, director, B2B, at O2 Germany. “This new hybrid approach, supported by satellite technology, complements our IoT portfolio and demonstrates how we are driving digitalisation and seamlessly connecting businesses worldwide.”
Skylo’s middleman approach is an appealing proposition because it adds a satellite option to a terrestrial telco’s portfolio, and it gives satellite operators a route into the cellular IoT market – all without the hassle that comes with launching new satellites or deploying new Earth-based infrastructure. These kinds of hurdles add time and cost, and given the economics of the NB-IoT market, they can have a huge influence over the profitability – or otherwise – of these services.
“In removing the gap that previously existed between cellular and non-terrestrial connectivity, we’re opening up new possibilities for the IoT market and allowing previously untapped use cases to be realised in the commercial and consumer space,” said Prasanna Iyengar, director of product management for Skylo. “We are thrilled to partner with O2 Telefónica to introduce hybrid IoT connectivity to existing and new customers across the globe.”
Telefónica Germany isn’t the only telco taken with Skylo. Its investors include Japan’s Softbank, which sees Skylo playing a role in what it calls its Ubiquitous Network strategy. This seeks to leverage terrestrial, geostationary and low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite, and high-altitude platform systems (HAPS) to offer seamless coverage.
Deutsche Telekom is also a Skylo fan, and has been working with the company since early 2022. It ramped things up earlier this year, integrating it into its global IoT Hub in the second quarter.
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