Earlier this week, IoT LP-WAN vendor Ingenu [1.] announced that it had signed an agreement with space transportation development and manufacturing company Phantom Space Corporation to build and launch 72 low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites). This new satellite constellation, named AFNIO, will allow Ingenu to offer satellite Internet connectivity anywhere on earth, focusing primarily on low power wide area network (LP-WAN) applications using Ingenu’s random phase multiple access (RPMA) [2.] technology. This LP-WAN uses the 2.4 GHz band, universally available as a continuous frequency around the world, and is already active in 50 terrestrial networks around the world.
Ingenu explained that the constellation’s initial focus will be on delivering connectivity for various large-scale public and enterprise customers, including smart grids; factories; agriculture; oil, gas, and mining; and asset tracking and logistics. “We’ll be able to build and operate a system of satellites that makes it possible for us to offer people full end-to-end solutions anywhere on earth and complement existing customers’ terrestrial networks. Nothing of the sort has ever been done up until now,” explained Ingenu CEO Alvaro Gazzolo.
Note 1. Ingenu was founded in 2008 to sell its inexpensive RPMA IoT network equipment running in the unlicensed 2.4GHz band. The company has suffered several setbacks over the years. In 2020 it installed a new CEO who declared the era of “Ingenu 2.0.” At the time, he touted new business opportunities all over the world, plans to launch RPMA-capable low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, and a “pipeline of contract value” worth $2 billion.
Note 2. RPMA has been deployed in more than 50 terrestrial networks over the past ten years, on 5 continents. Ingenu will bring its technology and expertise to develop the world’s largest space IIoT network dedicated to connectivity for machines. However, Mike Dano of Light Reading states, ” the scale and scope of Ingenu’s operations are difficult to determine. The RPMA coverage map on the company’s website shows services in just a few dozen US cities and no international coverage locations, though Ingenu has touted operations using its technology in cities ranging from Santiago, Chile to Irene, South Africa. Further, several attempts to download white papers from the company’s website were unsuccessful.” (This author had the same experience).
“Nonetheless, Ingenu CEO Alvaro Gazzolo said the company’s new LEO effort would allow it to provide services “anywhere on earth and complement existing customers’ terrestrial networks.” He said Ingenue counts 50 RPMA terrestrial networks across five continents.”
“Over the past couple of years we have been very busy developing our market strategy, that being a cloud-based platform which supports full end to end solutions in a wide variety of business verticals versus a connectivity model whereby the end users are required to take the responsibility of the end point devices and enabling them with our RPMA technology,” Ingenu’s William Schmidt wrote this week in response to questions from Light Reading. “Today Ingenu has a clean balance sheet and owns the most robust IoT technology currently deployed in the market, the RPMA technology. The AFNIO satellite system will dramatically add to the RPMA equation.” Schmidt boasted that Ingenu now counts over 2.5 million RPMA-enabled devices around the world, and that the company has $5.5 billion of “pipeline revenues” over the next ten years.
Phantom will be responsible for developing the spacecraft buses, system integration and launch of all 72 spacecraft. The majority of the satellites are expected to launch on Phantom’s Daytona launch vehicle set to first launch in 2023.
Comment and Analysis:
LEO satellite constellations are becoming an increasingly prominent part of the telecoms ecosystem. But while a large part of this is due to the high-profile nature of SpaceX’s Starlink constellation, which is by far the largest project of this type, numerous other players have also been growing.
Ingenu’s journey somewhat mirrors that of UK-based LEO player OneWeb, which is currently in the process of expanding its own constellation to provide global coverage. OneWeb filed for bankruptcy in March 2020, but since then has recovered through a slew of rapid investment, initially from the UK government and Bharti Airtel, before adding additional funds from SoftBank and Hughes Network System among others. OneWeb’s total investment now stands at over $2.4 billion, with the company expecting to have launched 648 satellites by the end of 2022.
Ingenu, while decidedly a terrestrial IoT player, was facing similar financial troubles back in 2017 as it struggled to expand its network in the US. By the summer of 2019, however, things were looking up, with Ingenu relaunching with a ‘2.0’ message about the suitability of its LPWAN tech for the industrial sector. At the time, the company said it had a $2 billion pipeline of contract value, with Gazzolo claiming they offered “the best IoT technology in the market today for the non-licensed spectrum”.
Now, with this satellite deal, Ingenu’s scope will be larger than ever. A recent study released by Research and Markets found that the global LP-WAN market is expected to grow by 84.3% between 2021 and 2029, owing largely to the increasing adoption of IoT and M2M applications. Smart buildings currently account for around 28% of this market, but it is actually the utility sector that is likely to see the most rapid growth, expected to account for 23.3% of all LP-WAN applications by 2029.
Deloitte just revised their predictions on the five topics most relevant for telecom due to the COVID-19 pandemic:
Our original prediction for 2020 smartphone sales was $484 billion, up 5.8% from 2019. There are a wide range of forecasts coming out after a weak Q1 and an anticipated collapse in Q2, but a 10% global decline for the full year now looks probable.
We had predicted that the smartphone multiplier (the revenues of things that accompany smartphones, such as apps, ads and accessories) would be $459 billion in 2020, and we now expect that to be $393 billion. Longer term, and post-pandemic, we would expect the market for both smartphones and the things that accompany them to return to growth, with the multiplier growing even faster than smartphone sales themselves.
Not all smartphones have dedicated artificial intelligence (AI) chips (neural processing units, or NPUs, worth an estimated $3 per phone)…but we predicted about a third of phones would have NPUs in 2020, accounting for an estimated 500 million chips out of a total 750 million edge AI processors. We have cut that by 100 million units, to only 650 million, but that will still be more than double the number of phones with edge AI chips that sold in 2017. The presence or absence of an edge AI chip has significant implications on data transmitted, as well as on privacy and security, so this drop will matter.
Longer term, our 2024 call for 1.6 billion edge AI chips still looks likely, and could even be low as new edge AI chips – that are even smaller and cheaper than smartphone NPUs, which in turn are smaller and cheaper than the chips used in data centres for AI training and inference – are hitting the market now. These will not be in phones, but will be in millions (billions, over time) of sensors, Internet of Things machinery, and smart city/smart home solutions.
Although 2020 deployments/launches of public 5G networks have been mixed because of the pandemic (faster in some countries, but delays in others), our prediction for private 5G trials and pilots looks like it will be exceeded. We’re taking our prediction for private 5G tests from “over 100” for the year to “under 1000” based on many trials of private 5G solution just in Q1 of 2020 that we are aware of. It is difficult to say if the more rapid pace of private 5G trials is connected with the pandemic. Testing a new technology while a factory is otherwise idle might make sense, and we have seen some private 5G trials in medical and logistics/distribution verticals, which could well have been accelerated by COVID-19 stresses.
We are moving our prediction for the number of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) data satellites in orbit by the end of 2020 from “more than 700” to “more than 1,000.” OneWeb went bankrupt, but before it did it launched 68 satellites in Q1-2020, and Starlink has placed 300 satellites in orbit as of April, with another 60 per month expected for the balance of the year. Partial service is expected late this year. Hence, we expect more LEO satellites by the end of this year.
Once again, it is hard to know how directly the pandemic is influencing the more rapid deployment of LEO sats. But as hundreds of millions of people work and learn from home, as governments try to fill coverage gaps for rural broadband, and as carriers look for more backhaul for the increased traffic due to people staying (and streaming) at home…demand for data from orbit looks stronger than it did when we wrote the original prediction.
All that streaming video is running relatively well over global telecoms networks so far but will likely need help from Content Delivery Networks (CDNs.) We originally called this market to be up 25% to $14 billion, and it now looks like 30-40% is possible for the year, or up to $15.5 billion.
Many clients have asked what we think the impact of COVID-19 will be for telemedicine and telework and the rollout of 5G due to health concerns. No comment as of now…but tune in December 8, 2020 for our 2021 TMT Predictions report, where all three topics will be addressed!