Eutelsat kickstarts IoT business with GEO Ku-band service

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WASHINGTON — Fleet operator Eutelsat Communications of Paris on Oct. 28 said it is starting a connectivity service for Internet of Things devices using its geostationary satellite fleet.

The service, called Eutelsat IoT First, precedes a low-Earth-orbit constellation of 25 smallsats and hosted payloads Eutelsat plans to begin launching next year

Luis Jimenez-Tunon, group executive vice president of Eutelsat’s data business, said Eutelsat’s move to start a geostationary IoT service doesn’t eliminate the need for the company’s Eutelsat LEO for Objects constellation. 

“They serve different client needs and object-connectivity needs,” he said in an interview. “It is not that ELO will replace the Eutelsat IoT First proposition, it’s just that they are complementary.”

The geostationary Eutelsat IoT First service will link “large fixed assets” in Ku-band that need to move hundreds of megabits worth of data over the internet, Jimenez-Tunon said. Eutelsat’s LEO constellation will use ISM frequencies to connect smaller devices that only need to move a few bytes of data per day, he said. 

Eutelsat has installed three IoT network hubs — one inside its Rambouillet, France, teleport and others with partner sites, X2nSat in Petaluma, California, and Microspace in Raleigh, North Carolina — to enable the Eutelsat IoT First service. MBI Group of Pisa, Italy, is providing the hubs, which are specialized for IoT instead of traditional satellite services like connecting very small aperture terminals, he said. 

As a Ku-band IoT service, Eutelsat may end up competing with Kepler Communications of Toronto, Canada, whose LEO cubesats use the same type of frequency. 

Jeffrey Osborne, Kepler’s co-founder and vice president of business development, said that while Kepler’s service is also designed to transport large data volumes, he sees little risk of competitive overlap. 

“For customers that are looking to move a large volume of data at a low-cost, we are highly suitable for that application,” Osborne said by email. “To that end, we see ourselves as complementary to other Ku-band service offerings whether they be Eutelsat’s Ku-band IoT service, or traditional Ku-band broadband satellites, or even large [non-geosynchronous satellite systems] in Ku-band.” 

“The trick is to build a full solution that is able to intelligently route data between different networks based on customer demands for cost, latency, and data volume,” Osborne added.

Jimenez-Tunon said the Eutelsat IoT First service activates Oct. 29 across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa. Eutelsat is considering expanding the service to sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific, though such expansions, particularly into the Asia Pacific, could require more teleport infrastructure, he said. 

Eutelsat’s ELO smallsat and hosted payload constellation will use existing ground stations and not the same ground segment hardware as the GEO service, he said.

Eutelsat is marketing its geostationary IoT service to satcom resellers, large cellular communications companies, and the emerging field of dedicated IoT solutions integrators, Jimenez-Tunon said. 

French IoT company Sigfox, which is a Eutelsat partner on its ELO constellation, could become a customer for Eutelsat’s GEO service too, he said. 

Jimenez-Tunon said Eutelsat IoT First hardware will cost customers about $200, if not slightly less, and data subscriptions will be “a few euros per month,” depending on the amount of data required.