Globalstar is one of the very early companies to provide IoT services from space over their LEO satellite constellation (at the time, it was called machine-to-machine). Last week, Apple announced an “Emergency SOS via satellite” service available with the iPhone 14 (here). This direct satellite-to-handset service operates over Globalstar satellites to allow users send and receive text messages to emergency centers. While the service operates at low bit-rate, it should be sufficient to alert the appropriate authorities in case of an emergency in areas outside the mobile network coverage.
To provide the capacity needed for this service, Globalstar will abandon its voice service. Voice only accounts for 25% of Globalstar’s revenue. It also has been in steep decline, falling by 21% between 2020 and 2021. Instead, Globalstar will focus on providing IoT, data and messaging services. But this business will consume only a fraction of the network capacity – up to 15% – since the remaining 85% is reserved for Apple messaging over satellite service.
Enterprise Private Networks and IoT Services
Now, there is a very interesting side to this story. In 2016, Globalstar secured FCC approval to operate terrestrial networks in their S-band spectrum (2483.5 – 2495 MHz). Globalstar received additional approvals in Canada, Brazil, South Africa and a few other African countries to deploy terrestrial networks. The combination of direct satellite-to-handset service coupled with terrestrial enterprise networks opens new revenue opportunities for Globalstar and potentially for Apple, especially in IoT services.
A Threat to Mobile Network Operators?
The Globalstar-Apple direct satellite-to-handset works on spectrum independent of mobile network operators. MNOs would perceive it as a competitive threat even in its nascent form: MNOs lack such revenue opportunity. This explains the rushed partnership between T-Mobile and SpaceX (here). We also expect more such services: Google announced that Android would support this function (here); and Huawei announced text service over the Beidou constellation (here).
But what amplifies the threat to MNOs are terrestrial enterprise private wireless networks. Different ecosystem players such as cable operators could benefit from Gobalstar's terrestrial spectrum adding further competitive pressure on MNOs.
If interested to learn more about this joint partnership, you can download the Xona Partners Insight Note at this link here.