TAMPA, Fla. — Globalstar has signed a term sheet with a “large, global customer” to start deploying some of its spectrum for terrestrial use “in the U.S. and beyond,” the satellite operator said May 5.

The mystery customer is looking to use frequencies Globalstar holds in a part of S-band dubbed Band 53, the operator said in an earnings release.

While further details were not disclosed, Globalstar has been working with Nokia for years to develop terrestrial solutions for Band 53, including private wireless networks and systems for connecting internet of things (IoT) devices. 

In January 2021, Globalstar said the government agency overseeing Seattle’s seaport plans to use Band 53 for a private wireless network to support logistical operations for cranes, trucks and lifts.

Globalstar said its latest agreement for the frequencies “is a significant opportunity that will take time but signs point towards success; we will share more information when we are allowed.”

The company is also “active in several international opportunities in the mining, transportation and logistics sectors,” it said, “any of which would be meaningful if concluded.”

Globalstar did not respond to requests for comment.

Globalstar mystery deepens

This is the second large-scale project Globalstar has recently said is in the works with a customer shrouded in secrecy.

The operator said Feb. 24 it picked MDA and Rocket Lab to supply a set of 17 satellites to replenish its constellation after a “potential customer” agreed to fund most of the $327 million project. The agreement includes an option for up to nine additional satellites at $11.4 million each.

Globalstar did not shed any light on the identity of this financial backer in its May 5 earnings announcement.

Even still, B. Riley analyst Mike Crawford continues to believe Apple is “the most probable” wholesale buyer of this capacity, saying the release of the iPhone 14 later this year could be a potential catalyst.

There were reports last fall that the iPhone 13 line could come with Globalstar-enabled connectivity, but Apple ultimately made no mention of satellite services when that smartphone was unveiled in September.

Megaconstellation plans

It also recently emerged that Globalstar is behind ITU filings that registered plans for 3,080 satellites operating in low Earth orbit between 485-700 kilometers.

The spectrum filings were submitted to international regulators through Germany’s licensing authority in December 2020.

However, it is not uncommon for companies to file for various potential constellation architectures without a firm plan for them.

Globalstar’s limited capital means its expansion plans appear tethered to its undisclosed financial backer, noted Quilty Analytics senior analyst Caleb Henry.

Because the constellation this customer is backing is smaller than Globalstar’s existing LEO network, Henry said “there does not appear to be significant momentum towards a large, multi-thousand-satellite constellation.”

Instead, the megaconstellation filing could be breathing room for a larger constellation at a future date, he added, and could also become “a valuable spectrum asset one day if others saw merit in owning it.”

Globalstar’s current business, which primarily provides low-data-rate IoT connectivity, data and voice services to specialized handsets, faces increasing competition on multiple fronts.

In the IoT market, competition is rising from established and startup space companies looking to take advantage of falling small satellite costs to expand their share.

In voice and data, startups Lynk and AST SpaceMobile are signaling progress for satellite constellations that aim to provide connectivity directly to unmodified phones.

Globalstar said revenues soared 22% to $33 million for the first three months of 2022, compared with the same period last year, boosted by engineering and other service revenue derived from its undisclosed wholesale capacity customer.

The revenue jump helped the company post a $21 million net loss for the first quarter of 2022, an improvement on the $36 million net loss recorded for the period in 2021.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...