MediaTek claims industry first with successful NB-IoT satellite connection

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Taiwanese semiconductor provider MediaTek has claimed an industry first with a public test of an NB-IoT device to an Inmarsat satellite 35,000 kilometres above the equator.

A bi-directional link was established from MediaTel’s satellite-enabled standard NB-IoT device to a commercial GEO satellite. The test was conducted with a base station at the Fucino Space Center in Italy, and developed by Taiwan’s Institute for Information Industry.

The test, which MediaTek said was ‘pushing the boundaries of advanced IoT 5G satellite communications’, will contribute to its 3GPP (third generation partnership project) Rel-17 standardisation work on non-terrestrial networks. The wider initiative, MediaTek added, was to establish 5G standards towards new use cases and services.

“Testing MediaTek’s standard NB-IoT chip over Inmarsat’s established GEO satellite network has proven technology from mobile networks works effectively over GEO satellites with little modification and will provide a very cost effective path to ubiqutious and hybrid global IoT coverage,” said Jonathan Beavon, senior director of Inmarsat Product Group.

Both companies said the successful test ‘could provide proof as to the feasibility of new global standards and open market potential of using a single device for connecting both satellite and cellular networks.’

The use of NB-IoT technology is an interesting one in this instance. Given its previous history and its rise amid the IoT boom, according to a recent Ericsson mobility report, only 100 million connections globally were based on either NB-IoT or LTE-M.

Earlier this week, Skylo partnered with Sony Semiconductor Israel to deploy 5G-ready NB-IoT satellite connectivity. The company had emerged from stealth with $116 million in funding in January.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

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