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Omnispace, MTN team to develop, deploy satellite IoT, 5G NTN services

African space-based mobile communications industry gains higher orbit as continent’s largest mobile operator enters partnership with non-geostationary satellite constellation firm

Space-based communications company Omnispace has announced a collaboration with MTN, the largest mobile network operator in Africa, to integrate the service provider’s terrestrial mobile networks with the Omnispace non-terrestrial network (NTN), based on the 3GPP mobile industry standard, to serve consumer mobile and enterprise internet of things (IoT) services.

Launched in 1994, MTN provides voice, data, fintech, digital, enterprise, wholesale and application programming interface services to over 290 million customers in 19 countries. The company said its strategy is anchored in building the largest and most valuable platform business, with a clear focus on Africa. This, it said, rests on a scale connectivity and infrastructure business encompassing mobile and fixed access networks in the consumer, enterprise and wholesale segments.

Headquartered in the Washington DC area, Omnispace uses 5G technologies to combine the global footprint of a non-geostationary satellite constellation with global leading telecom companies to bring interoperable one network” connectivity to users and IoT devices anywhere. 

The company started its journey into delivering robust space-based services in May 2022, with the launch and delivery of the Omnispace Spark-2 satellite. The new-generation NGSO satellite constellation, in low-earth orbit (LEO), operates in 3GPP band n256, which has been standardised for NTN operation, making direct-to-enterprise, government internet of things and consumer device connectivity possible worldwide.

At launch, Omnispace stressed that 5G mobile connectivity from a single global network would help transform industries and serve as the communications infrastructure to support the digital economies of the 21st century.

The partnership will see MTN and Omnispace explore the use of S-band spectrum for satellite services to expand MTN’s portfolio of wireless service in their markets. It will also explore how they may collaborate on the development and growth of an ecosystem of devices and software.

As part of the agreement, Omnispace will develop a next-generation standards-based mobile and IoT network designed to serve MTN markets. In the interim, the companies will partner to test existing technology and prove capabilities using Omnispace’s on-orbit satellites.

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Omnispace CEO Ram Viswanathan said: “This collaborative effort would offer access to secure, cost-effective, ubiquitous 5G mobile connectivity by seamlessly integrating our respective satellite and terrestrial networks. Omnispace is pleased to work together with MTN to deliver this first-of-its-kind, 3GPP standards-based solution to add non-terrestrial network connectivity to a large ecosystem of compatible devices, products and applications.”

Mazen Mroué, MTN’s chief technology and information officer, added: “Through this collaboration, we aim to methodically extend the reach of our services, understanding the profound role connectivity plays in shaping societies and supporting growth.

“Our partnership with Omnispace is a strategic step towards ensuring consistent, reliable access to our network, contributing to the foundational infrastructure that supports a digitally inclusive future, enabling the benefits of a modern connected life for all.”

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