Connectivity Business News: Skylo takes strategic approach to IoT tech, services

Non-terrestrial network provider Skylo Technologies is expanding its narrowband IoT solution reach, leveraging standardization and global partnerships to bridge the digital divide.

Non-terrestrial network provider Skylo Technologies is expand its narrowband IoT solution reach, leveraging standardization and global partnerships to bridge the digital divide.

Tarun Gupta, co-founder and CPO of Skylo Technologies (Courtesy/ Skylo Technologies)

On the heels of a string of new partnerships and a $37 million series C funding round that closed last month, Skylo on Monday completed certification for Samsung LSI 5400 5G chipsets, enabling them to operate between cellular and satellite networks at any location, Tarun Gupta, co-founder and chief product officer at Skylo, told Connectivity Business News.

The LSI chipset certification follows Skylo’s February certification of Android’s Ulefone Armor 23 Ultra smartphone, which can switch from terrestrial to non-terrestrial connectivity as needed, Gupta said.

Gupta said that 80% of global land is not covered by a cellular network therefore devices must be able to connect to satellite networks as a backup. This is enabled by following the 3GPP Release- 17 standard [the latest mobile communications technical standard aimed supporting the advancement of 5G networks], Gupta said.

“By bringing in satellite services in a standardized way, you’re able to make sure that all parts of the entire ecosystem are hardened,” he said.

IoT inflection point

5G service (Photo/ Can Stock Photo)

The global 5G IoT market is projected to be worth $12.3 billion by yearend and reach $95.4 billion by 2028, according to a January report by Indian market research firm The Business Research Company (BRC).

A separate January report by Dublin-based Research and Markets has the market hitting $97.6 billion by 2030.

Low costs for 5G IoT services and scalability enabled by standardization are key market growth drivers, Research and Markets said in its report.

Surging mobile data traffic will also accelerate market growth, according to the BRC report.

“I think we’re at the inflection point of IoT.”
— Skylo Co-founder and CPO Tarun Gupta

“Costs of silicon are coming down, cost of manufacturing is going down, cost to compute is going down. And really, the one linchpin that was there was connectivity.”

Ubiquity over capacity

Skylo in January certified the MediaTek MT6825 chipset over its network. Manufacturer MediaTek said in a statement that the chipset was the first 5G non-terrestrial network (NTN) chipset to receive certification for Skylo’s network.  

Skylo also worked with MediaTek and tech companies Compal, Kiwi Technology and Creative5 on an NTN satellite IoT solution that debuted at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, Spain, last month. The solution is intended to lay the foundation for a future 6G NTN IoT service, Eric Peng, executive vice president Compal, said at the event.

A hiker in Colorado was able to receive emergency services from FocusPoint International because their smartphone could connect to Skylo’s satellite network. (Courtesy / Skylo Technologies)

Unlike home or office internet, NTN IoT and direct-to-device services still prioritize basic capabilities such as emergency services and location tracking that don’t require the high speeds of streaming and browsing, Gupta said.

“When we think about residential internet or your cellphone service, it went on a journey from 1G to 2G and now there’s 5G,” Gupta told CBN. “And I’m seeing in the press a 5.5G as well as 6G, which gives you more opportunity using greater speeds.”

NTN IoT is at the 1G phase, meaning it’s not designed to deliver the highest speed or capacity, he said.

“The focus is: how do we get you that initial basic connectivity to make sure that you’re safe, you’re sound, you’re able to connect when you need to connect or when you have to connect, as opposed to checking in on Instagram posts to see what’s going on,” Gupta said.

NTNs are likely to incorporate more capacity in the future, he said. “Capacity is a function of time.”

Skylo is “not just a technology house, we’re a service operator,” Gupta said. “We spend a lot of time on what the customer needs before we roll out a new technology.”  

Tech with a purpose

He said that before introducing a new technology to its portfolio, Skylo considers several factors, including:

Satellite-enabled tracking app for pets (Courtesy/Trackimo)
  • The problem the customer is trying to solve;
  • Where the customer is trying to solve the problem;
  • What is the customer willing to pay; and
  • The technology’s potential use cases.

Skylo’s solution is based on narrowband [300 Hz –- 3,400 Hz], IoT, which is classified by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association as a low-power-consumption network capability that covers a wide area and co-exists with networks with varying technology standards, such as 4G or 5G.  

Gupta told CBN that this could change in the future as the NTN IoT market evolves.

“As we move from these narrowband services to maybe mid-band [1 GHz – 6 GHz] services, we want to make sure we understand every step along the journey so it makes a lot of sense, as opposed to deploying technology for technology’s sake,” Gupta said.

While Skylo is cautious about incorporating new technologies, new applications for NTN IoT are arising on their own, Gupta said. Some of these applications include:

An image of a smart grid control center (Courtesy/ CESI)
  • Monitoring power grids;
  • Utility metering;
  • Maritime tracking;
  • Developing smart cities [centralized information systems improving city functions]; and
  • Tracking ultra-marathon runners, whose locations can switch from a rural area to a high-traffic area multiple times.

Satellite partnerships

Skylo does not operate its own satellite network, instead working with multiple large satellite operators, including Carlsbad, Calif.-based Viasat, its London-based subsidiary Inmarsat and Reston, Va.-based operators Ligado Networks and TerraStar Networks, Gupta said.

An artist’s rendering of the ViaSat-2 geostationary satellite (Courtesy/ Viasat)

“Other [partnerships] are coming out shortly,” Gupta said, adding that working with multiple satellite operators has benefits.  

“People think it’s just launching a satellite, and then you kind of walk away, but from my experience here, launching satellites is hard work,” Gupta said.  

Issues can arise during a satellite’s design or post-launch, so working with companies that have decades of experience in developing, launching and operating satellites enables Skylo to focus on delivering its service, he said.

Established satellite operators also possess existing spectrum for IoT partners to utilize, Gupta said.

“We’re not having to go in and try to figure out how to not only launch a satellite but maintain and operate that satellite and also how to get spectrum,” he said.

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