Softbank-backed Skylo teams with Sony to launch 5G-ready NB-IoT over satellite
Softbank-backed satellite IoT startup Skylo is set to deploy 5G-ready NB-IoT chipsets that can connect via geostationary satellites, it has said. The California-based firm has teamed up with Sony Semiconductor Israel to accelerate the adoption of NB-IoT over satellite.
Sony Semiconductor Israel, formerly Altair Semiconductor, is providing Altair-branded NB-IoT chipsets to the partnership, compatible with 5G networks. Skylo, backed by the likes of Softbank and Boeing, is launching a global NB-IoT network over satellite, starting over South Asia this year. The network, hosted on existing geostationary satellites, can be accessed via its Skylo Hub device, a portable satellite NB-IoT antenna terminal.
The Skylo Hub costs less than $100, and integrates with existing machines and sensors. Skylo has extended the capability of Altair chipsets to communicate directly over Skylo’s hosted satellite network. “Those IoT sensors are already programmed for these protocols, so adding satellite connectivity is a seamless extension for customers… [who can] now use satellite connectivity, virtually in any place on the planet.”
The fact the Altair cellular IoT chipsets are in mass production already for terrestrial networks also means savings for Skylo, and for its customers, said Sony. The partnership will also contribute to future 3GPP specifications to standardise and accelerate the adoption of NB-IoT over satellite, the pair said. The pair claim delivers “massive cost and interoperability advantages” for the IoT industry.
Technological advances in satellite constellations and ground transceivers are lowering satellite connectivity costs, and enabling new IoT use cases that have previously been expensive, or else required custom-built protocols.Skylo points to the emergence of “a crop of exciting new startups” launching miniaturised satellite constellations into low-earth orbit (LEO), and also to new cost effective technologies over geostationary (GEO) satellites.
“As enterprises evaluate their connectivity options, they should consider the different characteristics of these options: latency, coverage, capacity, and total cost of ownership,” it says.
Skylo, which launched in January, claims its IoT connectivity affords better coverage than rival solutions, and costs 95 percent less than traditional satellite connectivity. It is offering connectivity starting from $1. It is targeting customers in agriculture, fishing, railways, logistics, and utilities. The firm has been subject to a $13 million Series A funding round led by Innovation Endeavors, co-founded by Eric Schmidt, and a $103 million Series B round led by Softbank.
Andrew Nuttall, co-founder and chief technology officer at Skylo, said: “For industries with assets deployed all over the globe – including marine vessels, vehicles, and industrial equipment – having access to an ubiquitous fabric of carrier-grade, affordable IoT connectivity… is a game-changer. This partnership ensures our ability to continue to quickly scale the manufacturing and deployment of connector Skylo Hubs to our customers around the world.”
Dima Feldman, vice president of product management and marketing at Sony Semiconductor Israel, said: “We’re impressed by the innovative way that Skylo has extended our chip functionality over satellites to expand the connectivity reach to the most remote locations and we look forward to helping Skylo bring billions of sensors online for the first time.”
Feldman added: “The Altair field-proven, ultra-low-power and ultra-small chipset solutions are ideal for the type of data exchange for industrial use cases. This new geostationary satellite connectivity is a technological breakthrough for Skylo. Any customer who is building IoT into their remote businesses can use familiar technologies like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi in order to connect existing sensors to Skylo Hub.”