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.