Industrial gateways gain as global satellite IoT subscriber base gains higher orbit

Studies reveal growing importance of satellite platforms in propelling growth in uptake of IoT technology for which essential devices in industry are steadily growing in number

Two research reports from leading European research firms have highlighted the extent to which the internet of things (IoT) market is on the up, almost literally, as satellite IoT users are growing substantially while IoT gateways in industrial applications are also accelerating.

According to specialist IoT analyst Berg Insight, only about 10% of the Earth’s surface has access to terrestrial connectivity services, which it said leaves a large opportunity for satellite IoT communications.

Berg said satellite connectivity provides a complement to terrestrial cellular and non-cellular networks in remote locations, especially useful for applications in agriculture, asset tracking, maritime and intermodal transportation, oil and gas industry exploration, utilities, construction, and governments. Both incumbent satellite operators and more than two dozen new initiatives are now betting on the IoT connectivity market.

In the Satellite IoT communications market report, Berg said the global satellite IoT communications market is growing at a steady pace, with the global satellite IoT subscriber base growing to surpass 4.5 million by the end of 2022. In addition, the analyst forecasts the number of satellite IoT subscribers will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39.6% to reach 23.9 million units in 2027.

“Iridium, Orbcomm, Inmarsat and Globalstar are the largest satellite IoT network operators today,” said Johan Fagerberg, principal analyst at Berg Insight. “Collaborations between satellite operators and mobile operators that explore new hybrid satellite-terrestrial connectivity opportunities will become common in the next years, and recent examples include Telefónica and Sateliot, Deutsche Telekom and Intelsat/Skylo, and Soracom and Astrocast.”

The study found Iridium grew its subscriber base by 20% in the past year, and reached the number one spot serving 1.5 million subscribers. Originally a dedicated satellite operator, Orbcomm has transitioned into an end-to-end provider, delivering services on its own satellite network as well as being a reseller partner of Inmarsat and others.

At the end of the fourth quarter of 2022, the company had 1.1 million satellite IoT subscribers on its own and Inmarsat’s networks. At the same time, Globalstar reached 440,000 subscribers.

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Meanwhile, according to IoT Analytics, a global provider of market insights and strategic business intelligence for the IoT, the industrial IoT gateways market accelerated significantly from 2021 to 2022, growing around 14.7% to reach $860m (38% of the overall IoT gateways market).

The IoT gateway market report 2023–2027 found the $900m industrial IoT (IIoT) gateway market experienced accelerated growth between 2021 and 2022, which is set to continue on the back of several favourable tailwinds.

IIoT gateways are enabling IT and OT convergence by securely and efficiently sharing data between floor-level OT equipment and IT equipment or the cloud – with implementation typically part of one of four broader IoT architectures. There were found to be several IIoT gateway advancements, especially in security, edge computing and storage.

“IoT gateways have emerged as a highly cost-effective solution for deploying IoT systems with multiple sensors,” said IoT Analytics analyst Kalpesh Baviskar.

“They play a crucial role in connecting legacy equipment and devices that were previously unconnected. In recent years, we have seen the integration of high-performance processors and AI chipsets into IoT gateways, transforming them into edge IoT gateways. These edge gateways can perform local data processing and analytics, significantly reducing the amount of data that needs to be sent to the cloud. This can lead to significant cost savings and performance improvements for IoT applications.”

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