Juniper Research: 5G Satellite Networks are a $17B Operator Opportunity

New research from Juniper Research forecasts that network operators will generate $17 billion of additional revenue from 3GPP‑compliant 5G satellite networks between 2024 and 2030. 

Editor’s Note: There is no serious work in ITU-R on 5G satellite networks as we’ve previously detailed.  The real SatCom air interface specifications work is being done by 3GPP, under the umbrella term of NTN (Non-terrestrial Networks), in Release 17 and the forthcoming Release 18.

ITU-R WP5D is responsible for terrestrial IMT radio interfaces (IMT-2000, IMT-Advanced and IMT-2020/M.2150 as well as IMT for 2030 and Beyond), so it won’t be involved in standardizing radio interfaces satellite networks.

ITU-R Working Party 4B (WP 4B) is responsible for recommendations related to: Systems, air interfaces, performance and availability objectives for FSS, BSS and MSS, including IP-based applications and satellite news gathering.


The market research firm urges network operators to sign partnerships with SNOs (Satellite Network Operators) which will enable operators to launch monetizable satellite-based 5G services to their subscribers. SNOs possess capabilities to launch next-generation satellite hardware into space, as well as being responsible for the operation and management of the resulting networks.

The new report, Global 5G Satellite Networks Market 2023-2030 offers the most reliable source of data for the market.

Operators Hold the Key Billing Relationship:

The research predicts the first commercial launch of a 5G satellite network will occur in 2024, with over 110 million 3GPP‑compliant 5G satellite connections in operation by 2030. To capitalise on this growth, the research urges operators to prioritise immediate partnerships with SNOs that can launch GSO (Geostationary Orbit) satellites. These satellites follow the rotation of the earth to always be located above the country that the operator serves; providing consistent connectivity.

Additionally, operators must leverage their pre-existing billing relationship with mobile subscribers and enterprises as a platform to grow 5G satellite connectivity revenue over the next seven years. The report anticipates this existing billing relationship will enable operators to rapidly drive the adoption of satellite connectivity by integrating satellite services into existing terrestrial networks.

3GPP Releases related to SatCom:

3GPP Rel-17 is enabling the launch of satellite-based communications. Unlike traditional telecommunications ecosystems, the development of this market will be defined by the entrance of a new category of players – satellite vendors. These vendors will work with network operators to deploy NTNs (Non-terrestrial Networks) that side alongside terrestrial networks.

NTNs are a joint development between network operators and satellite vendors to drive growth of telecommunications services.  In the future, NTNs will integrate directly with satellite-based networks to provide connectivity with comprehensive services.

However, the development of NTN specifications is far from complete, the 3GPP roadmap includes provisions in 3GPP Releases 18 and 19 for enhancements to satellite services.  3GPP Release 20 includes the provision of satellite-based standards for future 6G networks. It is only with these standards that satellite networks can progress past traditional use cases, such as weather monitoring, global positioning services and broadcasting, which require low-to-medium throughput rates and do not need low latency.

Additionally, satellites have not been required, as the low data rates provided by previous iterations of satellite technologies, combined with the high costs of satellite connectivity, have not been able to compete with the service provided by terrestrial networks.

These will be the most immediate benefits of satellite-based services for 5G networks:

• Increased network coverage: Satellites will provide increased coverage to areas where terrestrial networks are financially unviable. This is most notable in rural areas where there is little demand for cellular connectivity; leaving operators with no return on investment into the needed backhaul infrastructure and base stations.

• Increased support of backhaul infrastructure: Given the data-intensive nature of 5G services, satellite infrastructure will be used to carry data in a similar fashion to fibre services in terrestrial networks.

• Increase network capacity and throughput: Satellites can offload data from terrestrial networks. As the number of 5G connections increases, so will the data generated. In turn, satellites can not only provide coverage in areas where there is little support for 5G services, but they can also alleviate geographical areas that require high throughput and support for a large number of connections.

• More network resilience: Satellites will provide an additional layer of network redundancy for communication services during natural disasters or network outages. When terrestrial networks are inoperable, satellites will be used for connectivity in the absence of terrestrial network.

Preparation for 6G Networks:

However, the research predicts operators will increasingly rely on SNOs for service provision as 6G development accelerates. Research author Sam Barker commented:

“Operators must not only think of 5G satellite services when choosing an SNO partner, but also the forward plan for 6G networks, including coverage and throughput capabilities.”

About the Research Suite:

The new market research suite offers the most comprehensive assessment of the 3GPP‑compliant 5G satellite network to date; providing analysis and forecasts of over 24,000 data points across 60 markets over five years.

View the 5G Satellite Networks market research

Download a free sample:


SatCom market services, ITU-R WP 4G, 3GPP Release 18 and ABI Research Market Forecasts

GSMA- ESA to collaborate on on new satellite and terrestrial network technologies


3 thoughts on “Juniper Research: 5G Satellite Networks are a $17B Operator Opportunity

    1. The technology to be used in NTNs is being defined by 3GPP in Releases 17-20, as described in this article. If you want more details visit the 3GPP website for each of those releases.

  1. The cellular-to-satellite market, which started off hot in late 2022, is currently in a bit of a transition. In November Qualcomm announced it was ending its partnership with Iridium Communications in which the two companies planned to deliver direct-to-device (D2D) service to Android smartphones. Qualcomm said its decision was due to smartphone makers preferring standards-based solutions instead of the proprietary solution that it had developed with Iridium.

    But analysts say Qualcomm’s departure from this area shouldn’t be viewed as a failure for the cell-to-sat market, but instead be chalked up to a business model problem because the partnership did not provide a role for the mobile network operator.

    Despite Qualcomm’s exit from the market, analyst firm NSR, an Analysys Mason company, remains bullish on the satellite D2D area, projecting that it will generate a $137 billion cumulative service revenue opportunity between 2022 and 2032.

    Mobile operator role is key

    In a research note, Lluc Palerm Serra with NSR, said that the biggest challenge to success in this area if aligning the interests of all the actors in the satellite D2D value chain. “The model proposed by Qualcomm did not consider a role for the mobile network operators (MNOs),” Serra said. “MNOs’ relationships with end users mean that MNOs must play a major role in order for the model to scale,” he added.

    Of course, some D2D players do have mobile operator agreements including AST SpaceMobile, which is working with 40 operators including AT&T; Lynk Global, which says it has multiple mobile operator agreements; and SpaceX’s Starlink, which is collaborating with T-Mobile in the U.S. and a handful of other operators globally.

    NSR’s Serra said that because these players have MNO partnerships, they may be able to ramp up their services faster and take advantage of backward-compatibility with existing phones.

    Lynk has developed a technology that makes it possible to connect any cellular device operating today to its satellite network because it can fool the cellular device into thinking that the satellite is a nearby tower. The company received a boost in mid-December when special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Slam Corp., led by former pro baseball player Alex Rodriguez, announced plans to merge with the company and form a group that they expected to be valued at $800 million.

    Lynk has successfully launched three commercial satellites and has started operating in four countries. The company is preparing to launch two more small satellites early this year and needs more funding if it wants to ultimately have 5,000 LEO satellites so it can provide continuous services around the world.

    However, just two weeks after announcing its deal with Slam Corp., SpaceNews reported that Slam has to give $176 million back to investors that are opting to redeem shares rather than have a potential stake in Lynk. That means that Slam now has fewer funds to fuel Lynk’s expansion.

    Meanwhile, AST SpaceMobile, which is similar to Lynk, because it can connect directly to existing smartphones and deliver its service through wholesale agreements with mobile network operators, is planning to launch its first five satellites in the first quarter. The company said that it also plans to launch its commercial service this year, according to Abel Avellan, CEO of AST SpaceMobile.

    And finally, SpaceX, which has partnered with T-Mobile, Rogers and a few other operators to deliver D2D service, is planning to launch its first six Starlink satellites with direct-to-cell capabilities in early January.

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