ThurAs consumers are purchasing more and more ‘smart’ devices; smartphones, tablets, wearables and home devices, there is a greater expectation that full functionality must be achievable anywhere on the planet. According to GSMA’s The Mobile Economy Report [1], almost half of the population of the earth now uses mobile communications. Over the past four years, a billion mobile subscribers were added. The total now stands at 3.4 billion, where subscribers are growing four times faster than global population. Data will be the driving force of growth with a CAGR of 50% to 2020.

But consider some key geographies and the workability of these ‘smart devices’. For example Australia has a remote land area of 7,700 km2, where only 1% of the land is populated. Also consider China, where less than 45% of the land is populated. Remote land areas indicate limited connectivity. Extending mobile networks into remote or rural areas such as these present both physical and business challenges in connecting people.

Does this mean that telcos should ignore the need for connectivity in such areas? Surely not. Connecting users in such remote geographies is where satellite connectivity will become increasingly crucial to ‘smart’ companies. Operators need to consider the following trends to fulfill connectivity for users today:

  • Satellite Integration: As users become more globalized, smart device manufacturers will be expected to provide not only cellular but also satellite connectivity options in their devices.

  • Connect Everywhere: Whilst manufacturers are mulling over the feasibility of the satellite option, consumers will look for a device that facilitates the synergy between cellular and satellite connectivity.
  • Device Intelligence: Consumers will want a device that is intelligent enough to make decisions based on coverage, speed of connection and affordability. So in the home, the smart device may interoperate with the wired internet connection or cellular network, while outside it may interact with the wireless cloud or the satellite network. The bottom line is that the user will expect the best service available
  • Connect Everything: Consumers will look for a device that acts as a central hub of connectivity that is interoperable with multiple standards, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee etc., and will need to be transparent to the user, requiring minimal user interaction.
  • Any application: Consumers will expect to maintain their existing usage pattern of applications. E.g. Internet browsing, social media, making voice calls and will not want to know the reasons why they cannot, based on their geographic location.
  • Monitor Everything: As connectivity via the Internet of Things (IoT) rapidly increases, users will want to monitor and control everything from their home lighting to their personal health status. Energy and utility companies will need to be able to monitor every connection on the grid irrelevant of location. A device that enables satellite connectivity will prove to be increasingly important for such machine-to-machine operations.
  • Staying Safe: With online privacy concerns driving more security consciousness, satellite connectivity will become more appealing especially when roaming into networks that are unknown, for example, when travelling or connecting into the Wi-Fi cloud in a connected city. A satellite provider with ubiquitous coverage will be an entity that is trusted by users. A device with a satellite-only mode will be able to connect to a trusted satellite network, giving peace of mind to the user.

The satellite industry witnessed true innovation with the Thuraya SatSleeve, an adaptor that transforms an iPhone or Android into a satellite phone. It marked the first time that a satellite operator launched a product with mass consumer appeal and extended its reach beyond traditional vertical sectors. Although the SatSleeve represented a significant breakthrough in the world of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), industry players are now scrambling to follow suit launching ‘innovative’ products that essentially have similar functionality to existing products. Concentration is being focused on aesthetics without much attention to what consumers actually want.

But the connected consumers have spoken, highlighting their needs clearly [2]. To innovate, the satellite industry needs to look at fresher ways of appealing to this new user - only then can we say that we are truly connected to their needs.

1 GSMA: The Mobile Economy Report 2014
2 Thuraya recently worked with Altman Vilandrie & Co to conduct a customer survey across six countries that was completed by over 600 mobile satellite and heavy cellular users. Some of the key findings are indicated in this article.

About the Author

Asher Faredi

Product Manager, Land IP

Asher Faredi is Thuraya’s Product Manager for Land IP. He is responsible for developing Thuraya’s satellite broadband portfolio and providing specialist counsel to business development and management projects within the sector.  He has a wealth of experience crossing many technologies and platforms, with more than 5 years’ experience in the mobile satellite industry.