Achieving Comprehensive IoT Coverage with Nanosatellites

February 3, 2021

The Astrocast Nanosatellite IoT Network went live on January 25, 2021, making the Astrocast the first Swiss telecom satellite operator. The network provides customers with two-way communication in remote areas where strong IoT connections are traditionally difficult to obtain. Ideally, nanosatellite networks will one day allow IoT users to communicate via 100% global coverage.

What Are Nanosatellites?

Nanosatellites are small and relatively cheap compared to their much larger counterparts. The satellites are energy and space efficient, containing the minimum of components necessary to operate. Since they don’t have robust computing power individually, they work together as a swarm to collect and send information and perform the operations of a larger satellite.

How Do Nanosatellites Work?

Nanosatellites operate in low orbit (between 400 and 650 km) and travel around 8 km per second, circling the earth 14-16 times a day. This proximity to the planet’s surface allows for low latency and fast bandwidth. Data from IoT devices is stored in a customer-owned modem, and the nanosatellite collects the data when it travels over the modem. The data is then sent to the provider’s ground station on Earth to be processed.

Nanosatellites are expected to be replaced every 2-4 years, ensuring customers have an optimized experience with upgraded technology.

The Need for Nanosatellite IoT

The 5G mobile network is expected to cover 40% of the world by 2024. But IoT connectivity remains an issue in remote areas and over bodies of water. Cellular networks are also expensive in poorer communities. Nanosatellite IoT networks are expected to fill both the coverage and price gap with their low cost and global capacity.

Nanosatellites in Action

Nanosatellites work as traditional IoT networks and can therefore facilitate all manner of IoT applications, particularly for customers in remote locations without traditional internet access or seeking cheaper alternatives.

Nanosatellites are already in use across industries:

  • Giving farmers access to the latest IoT agricultural innovations, like tracking livestock and monitoring for soil moisture and crop health
  • Detecting oil and gas leaks and monitoring facility methane emissions
  • Detecting natural disasters like wildfires and oil spills as well as tracking any structure or vegetation loss caused by damage
  • Tracking ocean currents, sea levels and shore and glacial erosion as well as monitoring trade movements and shipping traffic
  • Tracking weather patterns and animal migration as well as detecting biological and chemical contaminants in bodies of water

The M2M satellite communication market is expected to reach $12.56 billion by 2027 with 6,500 nanosatellites launched.