Berg Insight reported that Iridium, Orbcomm, Inmarsat and Globalstar are currently the largest satellite IoT network operators
The global satellite IoT subscriber base is forecast to reach 21.2 million units in 2026, up from 3.9 million units in 2021, according to a recent report by Swedish IoT analyst firm Berg Insight
The number of satellite IoT subscribers will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40.3% during the 2021-2026 period, according to the report.
Berg Insight noted that only about 10% of the Earth’s surface has access to terrestrial connectivity services which, according to the firm, leaves a massive opportunity for satellite IoT communications.
The Swedish firm also said that satellite connectivity provides a complement to terrestrial cellular and non-cellular networks in remote locations and is especially useful for applications in agriculture, asset tracking, maritime and intermodal transportation, oil and gas industry exploration, utilities, construction and governments.
“Iridium, Orbcomm, Inmarsat and Globalstar are the largest satellite IoT network operators today”, said Johan Fagerberg, principal analyst at Berg Insight. Iridium grew its subscriber base by 21% in the last year and currently serves 1.3 million subscribers, while Orbcomm has transitioned into an end-to-end solution provider, delivering services on its own satellite network as well as being a reseller partner of Inmarsat and others. At the end of 2021, the company had 1.1 million satellite IoT subscribers on its own and Inmarsat’s networks, according to the report. At the same time Globalstar reached 420,000 subscribers.
Berg Insight also noted that some operators rely on proprietary satellite connectivity technologies to support IoT devices, while other several are starting to leverage terrestrial wireless IoT connectivity technologies. “The terrestrial technologies will grow in importance in the next five years and collaborations between satellite operators and mobile operators exploring new hybrid satellite-terrestrial connectivity opportunities such as the recent T-Mobile/SpaceX agreement will become common”, Fagerberg added.
The global number of cellular IoT subscribers increased by 22% during 2021 to reach 2.1 billion, according to a previous report from Berg Insight.
Berg Insight noted that the major regional markets China, Western Europe and North America grew similarly during the year as the world recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. By 2026, Berg Insight estimates that there will be 4.3 billion IoT devices connected to cellular networks around the world.
The report also showed that the top ten mobile operators reported a combined active base of 1.8 billion cellular IoT connections at the end of 2021, accounting for 86% of total connections. China Mobile is the world’s largest provider of cellular IoT connectivity services with an estimated 801 million cellular IoT connections. China Unicom and China Telecom ranked second and third with 300 million and 297 million connections respectively, according to the research firm.
Also, Vodafone ranked first among the Western operators and fourth overall with 142 million connections, followed by AT&T with 95 million in fifth place. Deutsche Telekom and Verizon had in the range of 45–55 million cellular IoT connections each, when counting T-Mobile US’ customers as part of DT’s IoT subscriber base. Telefónica, KDDI and Orange were the last players in the top ten with about 31 million, 23 million and 20 million connections respectively.