Analysis of Satellite Internet market covering 30 + countries including analysis of US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Nordics, GCC countries, Japan, Korea and many more
The satellite internet market is expected to surpass a market valuation of US$ 6 Billion and expand at a CAGR of more than 8% during the forecast period, 2021-2031.
The internet has moved from a goods to an amenity and to a must-have over the past 2 decades, mainly as a result of the smartphone revolution. Although smartphone penetration surpassed 48% in 2020, internet penetration remained confined to only urban consumers.
As per Fact.MR, a market research and competitive intelligence provider, internet accessibility is available to 60% population of the world, and this leaves almost 4 out of 10 people around the globe who don’t have access to the internet. There exists an imbalance in internet access in rural and urban areas at each level.
Globally, 72% of urban households have access to the internet, whereas, in rural areas, this number is almost half, rounding to only 38% of households that have privilege to this technology.
Evaluating the internet scarcity further, in developed regions, around 13% of urban and 19% of rural households, whereas, in developing regions, almost 35% of urban and 71% of rural households don’t have access to internet services. Analyzing the data further, in least developed countries, 74% of urban and 88% of rural household lack internet connectivity.
Similarly, in land-locked developing countries, 51% of urban and 84% of rural households face the unavailability of internet connection. Similarly, in small island, developing states, 86% of urban and 50% of rural households are facing the same condition.
Most of the internet is through terrestrial infrastructure. Rural areas are hard to reach, and taking broadband to rural areas is likely to be more expensive because of the tough geography, which, in turn, increases installation costs. Similarly, smaller population and scarcity of potential customers restricts the profit in business, and thus limits service providers from investing in developing the necessary infrastructure.
As per the International Telecommunication Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations, around 1.5 Bn people in the world live in areas that lack high-speed internet coverage, which is fourth generation long-term evolution (4G LTE). On the other hand, around 607 Mn people live in regions that have no mobile data coverage. Furthermore, around 313 Mn people live in areas that have no coverage for basic voice and short messaging services (SMSs), which is 2G.
In addition, over 5 Bn people live almost 10 km away from any fiber optic cable infrastructure, falling into the same category, while around 3.6 Bn people reside more than 25 km away from the same. Inspecting other issues, lack of digital literacy, affordability, and non-availability of vernacular content cover almost 2.4 Bn people, who although live within 4G coverage but have not subscribed to any data service.
These vents in data service provide a fertile ground for satellite internet service deployment. Over the period, adoption of internet has increased significantly, and a few innovations have managed to bridge the gap in existing proliferation to some extent. Satellite broadband is one of the technologies that has aided in achieving high-growth development.
Satellite internet technology is another way of getting internet, in which broadband is transmitted wirelessly from space with the help of satellites, just like existing satellite TV. Due to cost limitations, currently, this technology is used in places that are financially viable as opposed to adverse geographic areas with low population and places where large distance exists between high-capacity networks and last-mile networks. In some cases, satellite internet serves as an alternative for availing the internet where geopolitical complexity results in costly fiber optics cable installation.
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Satellite internet provides service through a number of small satellites present in various orbits, such geostationary orbit (GEO), medium Earth orbit (MEO), and low Earth orbit (LEO). The group of satellites that they use are known as constellations.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), as of 1st of January 2021, there were almost 3,372 active satellites in orbit. In 2020 almost 1,283 satellites were launched, and till April-end, 850 satellites were been launched in 2021. Over the years, the launch of satellites has seen a surge, and the race for satellite broadband has been one of the key reasons for this.
As per the Satellite Industry Association (SIA), the global space economy generated revenue of around US$ 370 Bn, which is almost 1.4 times the 2019 value. The commercial satellite industry remained dominating in the field by contributing US$ 271 Bn to the total, which is around 73%. Similarly, revenue from satellite broadband grew 10% during 2020 to almost US$ 2.8 Bn. Commercial launches play an important role in the satellite internet industry, and revenue from commercial space launches experienced a growth of 9% accounting for US$ 5.3 Bn.
Estimated cost per satellite is around 100-400 Mn for a GEO satellite, 80-100 Mn for an MEO satellite, and 0.5-45 Mn for a LEO satellite. The unit cost of satellites is expected to reduce because of mass production, and this will bring down the final subscription cost for customers.
Top 10 countries that are likely frontrunners in the satellite industry are USA, Russia, U.K., Canada, India, European Space Agency, China, Japan, Germany, and Luxembourg.
As per 2020 data, globally, there were at least 400 submarine cables in service, and fiber optics cables constitute almost 99% of the total international internet data traffic.
Pricing is considered as a crucial part in providing internet services. Pricing differs as per international internet transit, which can be US$ 1 - 3 per megabit per second (Mbps) per month for prominent cross-country routes – submarine-based services, whereas, the price for dedicated satellite internet could be US$ 200 - 400 Mbps per month. Thus, at the current level, satellite internet is cost-effective only for regions that are remote and have a dispersed population, and places where the deployment of fiber optics is challenging. However, upcoming satellites are expected to provide services at a lower cost.
For instance, in the case of Starlink, the pre-order subscription cost is US$ 99 a month. Along with this, the service requires a series of hardware that cost US$ 499. The kit includes a small satellite dish that is easy to set up at homes and commercial places, along with a router and power supply. This price is far less than existing prices.
Latency is a measure of the time that data takes to pass from one network to another. Because optical fibers are on earth and in near proximity to users, latency associated with them is almost 5 microseconds. Since satellites are present in between heights of 500 km to above 35,000 km, latency is more.
Latency for various orbits are - for GEO it is ~477 ms, for MEO it is ~27-477 ms, and for LEO it is ~2-27 ms. The newer versions of GEO satellites provide higher throughput (HTS) but latency remains the same. Whereas, LEO satellite constellations require a large number of satellites to provide the service since they are low in orbit, cover less area, and revolve around the globe in 88-127 minutes. Their closeness to the Earth enables them to provide the advantage of low latency.
The bandwidth capacity that LEO satellite constellations will be able to provide is likely to undersize existing high-throughput geostationary orbit satellites. Traditional GEO have bandwidth capacity of 1-10 gigabit per second (Gbps), first generation HTS provides range of around 10-50 Gbps, while third generation HTS provides up-to 150-350 Gbps.
While new generation constellations have the capacity of 10s of Gbps for a single satellite, which totals to almost from a single digit to 10s of Tbps. It is expected that by the end of 2021, the speed of satellite internet is likely to be around 20 Tbps, and by the end of the decade, it is likely to reach 60 Tbps.
Similarly, fiber internet provides around 1 Gbps of internet speed. Satellite internet services mainly utilize Ku and Ka bandwidth service. Frequency in each band is the important difference that provides different speeds. Where the Ku-band uses frequency in the range of 12 to 18 GHz, the Ka-band uses frequency in the range of 26.6 GHz to 40 GHz. With higher frequency comes higher bandwidth, which results into higher data transfer and performance.
Looking at their coverage, capability of Ku-band is that it can cover an entire continent by using a single beam. On the other hand, the Ka-band can provide a country-wide coverage with the help of multiple beams. With the use of adequate infrastructure such as large number of satellites, a provider can provide services to adequate number of people.
Day by day, the world is becoming more connected, and the use of information and communication technology is becoming crucial in various sectors such as education, healthcare, etc. Satellite internet is likely to serve as a bridge between the masses for seamless connectivity by eliminating the need for terrestrial infrastructure.
Satellite internet is also likely to play an important role during humanitarian or natural disasters. Along with existing terrestrial internet infrastructure, satellite services can operate as a collective technology, and while in synergy, develop new avenues for revenue generation. Where satellite service can become a prominent factor for providing internet in rural areas, a blend of infrastructure can be used for densely populated area.
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The era of 5G technology is near and nations are fast setting up the required infrastructure development. As per estimates, by February 2021, almost 30% of countries around the world had 5G technology accessibility. Estimation is that, by 2025, around 3.6 Bn 5G connections will be listed.
For long, satellite broadband technology has remained a standalone, independent of mobile networking. As new generation satellites are building up, they have 5G capabilities. Along with IoT, they are likely to revolutionize the world of wireless device connectivity. The future of seamless wireless experience, which will be aided by 5G signals from space, is likely to start a new space race for providers and new opportunities for customers.
The 5G interconnected world comes with smart cities, connected vessels, autonomous cars, and much more. They are likely to utilize ultra-high speed internet that will be provided by small towers placed in densely populated areas that require higher bandwidth for optimal performance and speed.
LEO satellite broadband is poised to extend cellular 5G networks in all three dimensions - land, air, and sea. This will take IoT sensor utilization to zenith and remote worksites, technological farming, and internet reaching mines, which will likely be possible through the advent of satellite internet.
Satellite integrated and 5G infrastructure are likely to improve user experience with high quality services and network resilience. In addition, media content is the most prominent, and as device proliferation is further expected to increase, high speed and low latency streaming is likely to see more demand.
Further, as penetration of IoT devices will increase, there exists higher security risks, and regular updates will be key. To combat these security challenges, devices are likely to require efficient data distribution at a global level. With immense coverage broadcast capability of satellite internet services, they are well-positioned to eradicate these vulnerabilities.
Satellite communication has proven to provide secure network area, which is mission-critical and requires high speed. As constellations are large and they have less end-to-end delay, satellite communication can provide the required backhaul for these service.
As infrastructure on the ground is fragmented, 5G networks require the available number of cells. A satellite system can work as a single centralized backhaul for all processes such as edge processing, traffic unloading, and data sharing.
For instance, telecommunication service providers collaborated with the European Space Agency for a four-year trail program to test the end-to-end connectivity of 5G technology with satellite communication (Project Darwin). They experimented on connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) and found that they are expected to generate 4TB of data per hour. The experiment was aimed towards developing an ecosystem that will truly harness 5G capability.
With the right mix of finance and performance characteristics, satellite internet can provide a high-speed platform and ecosystem that could be difficult to manage by terrestrial infrastructure. Satellites are likely to provide backhaul services in the most crucial areas where proper land infrastructure development is difficult.
Companies from the United States, Canada, Russia, China, India, and Europe are running the next space race in the commercial field. Companies such as SpaceX, Telesat, LeoSat, OnWEeb, Kepler, SES (O3b), Space Norway, and many others are a few of the frontrunners. Recently, Amazon and Facebook have also announced their entry into this field.
As per reports, in 2018 March, SpaceX received its FCC approval for the launch of a 4,425 satellite constellation with both, Ku- and Ka-band. Further, in November 2018, they received approval for more 7,518 satellites that use V-band.
The satellite internet entity of SpaceX is known as Starlink. The company has the advantage of in-house satellite & rocket building and launch service capabilities. They launch constellations using their own reusable Falcon 9 rockets. They launched 60 Starlink satellites in single go, and currently, around 1,420 satellites are up there in orbit. In future, the company is planning to establish a 30,000 satellite constellation.
They have one of the most advanced LEO satellites at the current stage of satellite internet realm. The company began their public beta trial in October 2020. The service was available to subscribers of Northern U.S. and Canada, which falls between the latitudes of 45 and 52 degrees, prominently a rural area. They have latency between 20-40 ms, and the company is expected to bring it down further to 20 ms.
Estimated cost for the decade-long project is approximately US$ 10 Bn. The organization has around 90,000 users and pre-orders exceeded almost 500,000. They claim to provide speeds up to 300 Mbps anywhere across the globe irrespective of their location. Even before their start of the commercial service, the company was awarded with a contract from FCC worth US$ 885 Mn in December 2020.
Taking the leverage of Starlink’s pre orders, SpaceX stock valuation rose to US$ 74 Bn, which was 60% higher than in 2020 August. In June 2021, Elon Musk estimated that the company is likely to invest up to US$ 30 Bn to develop its Starlink satellite internet services. This is US$ 20 Bn more than the previously estimated cost.
They have collaborated with Microsoft in order to connect its network directly to Azure cloud and the available infrastructure of data centers to focus on enterprise and government clients. As per estimations, Starlink revenue is likely to surpass SpaceX launch revenue. Both companies are likely to have a combined revenue of over US$ 100 Bn in the next five years.
In September 2021, Elon Musk announced that Starlink is likely to exit the beta phase sometime in October 2021. This means that customers can use faster services or at least without the tag of a beta version.
Till now, the beta version was only limited to North America and some parts of Europe, and at some exceptional places such as Australia, New Zealand, and Chile. Currently, the planned expansion part is only limited to Japan and Mexico, and in addition, the company has registered its subsidiaries in the Philippines and South Africa.
OneWeb is a company with the second-highest number of satellites launched in space, with 254 in total, as of July 2021. OneWeb is joint venture between Airbus and OneWeb. The company was founded in 2012, and raised over US$ 3 Bn.
Their aim is to place 650 satellites in space LEO for providing high-speed internet connectivity across the globe, which will match terrestrial fiber-optic networks. Softbank was one of the prominent investors in this organization, backing their approach for the deployment of satellite internet. Yet, the company faced difficulty in raising capital and filed for bankruptcy in March 2020. But after finding two investors, they came out of bankruptcy.
In July 2020, the Government of the United Kingdom invested US$ 500 Mn and acquired 45% stake, and Bharti Global India has also committed to investment. Similarly, in January 2021, OneWeb announced additional capital infusion of around US$ 400 Mn from Softbank and Hughes Network Systems, totaling US$ 1.4 Bn since they started their restructuring.
The company said that this will fund the launch of 648 satellites that they have planned to launch by the end of 2022 in order to provide global coverage. OneWeb executive chair Sunil Bharti Mittal indicated that around US$ 2.3 Bn to US$ 2.4 Bn will be required to complete the 1st phase of expansion.
In order to reduce the cost of the program, the company has planned to mass-produce satellites at its facility, different from traditional geostationary satellites. The company claims that its innovative design and process has significantly lowered the mass-produce rate of high-performance space gadgets.
Their aim to produce up to 4 satellites a day, where the weight of each satellite is less than 150 kg. According to company, this has been done for the first time in the industry that a company is building more than 1 satellite a day.
Currently, the company is in a position of offering commercial services to northern latitudes. This include Great Britain, Alaska, Iceland, Northern Europe, Greenland, and the Artic Seas. They anticipate to offer global roll out connectivity by mid-2022.
The company has achieved well during their testing program, in which they offered a trial to the U.S. Department of Defense. They claim that the satellites are providing downlink data rates up to 500 Mbps, and latency is around 32 ms.
Looking towards the business model and comparing SpaceX and Starlink, OneWeb will be partnering with telecommunication companies for delivering its broadband. Starlink will be offering its services directly to consumers.
Canadian Telesat started its operations in 1969, and they carry strategic experience in satellite communication. The company started planning for satellite internet in 2016 and announced that they will be launching around 120 satellites. Then later, in 2018, they launched their first LEO satellite and began testing in 2021.
Later they announced their new plan of launching LEO constellation named as Lightspeed, it will be constituting around 298 satellites. But the company has made it clear that they will launching the satellites by 2023 only. Amazon’s Blue Origin will be their launch vehicle. As per the company, total expected cost for the constellation is likely to be around US$5 Bn.
The company announced that Thales Alenia Space will be building their next generation network for satellite internet broadband. The company has financial stability and one-third equity and two-third debt. They are planning to become a publically traded company on NASDAQ and list on the Toronto exchange as well.
Currently, Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board and Loral Space & Communication Inc. are the company’s main shareholders. In addition, export credit agency of France and Canada, EDC and BPI, are expected to be main lenders. The provincial government of Quebec is lending around US$ 317 Mn and the federal government of Canada has promised around US$ 475 Mn for being a preferred customer.
In 2020, the company claimed a net income of around US$ 195 Mn. They have different business models and are planning to target government clients and business-to-business customers who require global connectivity.
Newcomer Amazon announced its project Kuiper in 2019. In the same year, the company announced that the total cost of the project will be approximately more than US$ 10 Bn. The project is supported by Blue Origin reusable rockets.
The company has yet to launch any satellite but they have gained the approval of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) for 3,230 satellites. After the deployment of around 578 satellites, commercial service can be kicked off. The company is expecting to launch half of its satellites by 2026 and the remaining by 2029.
There have been reports that the satellite internet team has joined Amazon’s project Kuiper in an acquisition deal. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that a small number of members from the connectivity team has moved across to Amazon for streamlining this development.
A terminal can be considered as a layer where LEO satellites are placed. Very small aperture terminals (VSATs) that are used for HTS GEO have a service range that costs up to US$ 1,000.
Thus, the SpaceX price of US$ 499 for terminals of Starlink is seen as a significant reduction. It is not clear how much Starlink is absorbing as a subsidy. The study reveals that phased array flat panel antennas cost almost US$ 1,000 and above for each unit. OneWeb is offering its most affordable terminal for users at a price tag of US$ 1,200 for each unit, and this price is before tax, freight cost, and other expenses.
Launching of satellites has always been the concern from financial point of view. Traditional rockets which were single use vehicles used to increase the cost for every launch. The revolution of reusable rockets in the industry brought down the cost by very significant rate and the same encouraged satellite internet providers to extend their service through more number of satellites. Currently the two prominent players in the market of reusable market is SpaceX and Amazon’s Blue Origin.
Starlink has a significant cost and capacity advantage over its competitors because of its in-house launch capacity of SpaceX. The launch cost is very marginal compared to other available commercial launch options.
Before the development of reusable rockets, the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch payment plan was US$ 62 Mn, and this price level has been steady since 2016. Still the company was winning contracts for launches at this price level. After reusable rocket development, the price for a Falcon 9 launch is expected to drop to US$ 50 Mn.
With advancements in reusability of other stages, the price further likely to reduce to US$ 36 Mn. SpaceX CEO further suggests that, with further optimization and full-scale reusability, the price could drop to US$ 5 - 6 Mn.
Further, the Falcon heavy payload version is approximately three times larger than Falcon 9 and costs just 1.5X more. Currently, the company is working on developing an inter-planetary transport system rocket with much more load capacity. This is being designed with increased payload capacity and will be able to carry around 400 Starlink satellites that can weigh up to 150,000 kg.
In the realm of rocket launching, SpaceX valuation is around US$ 74 Bn, and in February 2021, the company completed an equity funding of around US$ 850 Mn. SpaceX accounts for almost 60% share in the global launch market.
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A satellite can be considered as the work-horse of the whole satellite broadband ecosystem. Gaining expertise in its development and manufacturing provides a cost-effective and non-dependency advantage to satellite internet providers.
SpaceX is manufacturing its own satellites, whereas, on the other hand, other LEO satellite operators source their satellite manufacturing to external parties such as Airbus and Boeing. For instance, OneWeb has partnered with Airbus and Telesat sources it to Thales Alenia Space and Maxar. Amazon has made the announcement that they will be manufacturing their own satellites in a facility at Washington State, USA.
Minimum flexibility is available regarding the cost of satellites since it is proprietary information, but the study of deceleration by SpaceX suggests that the expenditure of building a satellite is below US$ 500,000. This is compared to HTS GEO satellites that cost around US$ 200 Mn for 10Gbps speed and US$ 700 Mn for around 1,000 Gbps.
Another factor that should be kept in mind is the life of LEO satellites, which is between 5-12 years, and for GEO satellites it is 15 years of service. Lowering down the cost is essential for long-term sustainability, since the process requires relaunching of a satellite after its service finishes.
Humankind has always been known for its exploration of space, which is one of the fields that has always fascinated us to look up high. Yet, starting a business in space is subjected to various risks, and these could make or break into a non-profitable business.
This business comes with a vast number of technicality and various operational challenges. And these could probably lead to delays or termination of the whole plan. Few of the expected ones are challenges in ground infrastructure building, spectrum rights disputes, radio frequency interference with other satellites, pricing, etc.
As per the Kessler syndrome 1978, as the density of objects increases in LEO, a cascade of collisions will end up creating so much space debris that the LEO would become unusable for many generations. Thus, many fear that the introduction of thousands of satellites in the LEO will make space crowded and lead to a potential threat.
For instance, on September 2, 2019, the European Space Agency maneuverered its satellite in order to avoid a collision with a Starlink satellite.
In order to ensure safety, various government organisations are looking forward to framing specific guidelines to operate in this area. Similarly, they all are working on how to de-orbit satellites after their service finish. Starlink claims that their satellites are designed in such a way that once they enter Earth’s orbit after their lifespan is over, they will completely burn down by themselves.
A very serious concern that has been projected by astronomers around the world is that the number of satellites is likely to disrupt observation as well as the night sky. Satellites available in the LEO display a streak of line, which is called satellite streaks. Similarly, the brightness which it reflects disrupts the night sky view with the naked eye.
Starlink claims that they are working with leading astronomers of the world and solving this problem without making and changing satellite structure, but rather changing the way they fly. It is estimated that, in one picture that is captured, 20% of the data gets hidden due to streaks. Similarly, around 30%-40% of observations that are made from ground observatories during dawn or twilight are likely to be impacted.
Currently, a prominent number of projects are either running on a very small scale in limited area, or they are in a trial version or they have not been launched yet. Thus, there is lack of on-ground validation and mass-scale deployment.
These projects involve heavy investments, and further, they require financial support to run the program later. The economic profitability scale is unclear and current data that is available is all estimated.
Currently, the technology is in its developing phase and it is evolving with customer requirement assessment by developers. Satellite internet is growing and is likely to hold a dominant position in the overall satellite market.
The global space industry is presumed to reach almost US$ 3 trillion in the next 30 years, since the commercial satellite market holds almost 73% of the same, and satellite broadband is the likely key driver for the whole industry for seamless services.
It is estimated that demand for GEO HTS bandwidth for enterprise data and occasional-use television application is likely to reach almost 400 Gbps and 800 Gbps, respectively. Similarly, it is expected that satellites in LEO and MEO are likely to capture half of the high-throughput satellite communication market.
On other grounds, regional governments launch and install their own national satellites with capital expenditure (CAPEX) of millions of dollars. Satellite broadband can be the one stop answers for global coverage and access to high-speed internet.
Further, community Wi-Fi models of brands such as Hughes internet can be an affordable alternative to current high-priced satellite broadband. This can provide data-bound or time-bound services to a larger chunk of potential customers.
As governments across the globe are focusing on developing infrastructure that supports a wider network of businesses for enhancing the ease of doing business ranking, skill development, employment opportunities, education opportunities etc., they are likely to encourage and ensure streamlined and flexible licencing procedures for satellite internet providers. This becomes crucial for higher penetration and long duration sustainability of these programs.
Fact.MR scrutinized an extensive range of data and further triangulated and simplified it into insights for better understanding of market penetration and key trends. We hope that this study would help you better understand about the crucial factors related to satellite internet.
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The satellite internet market is expected to surpass a market valuation of US$ 6 Billion by 2031.
The speed of satellite internet is likely to be around 20 Tbps, it is likely to reach 60 Tbps by end of the forecast period.
Satellite internet market expects to grow at more than 8% CAGR by 2031.
Satellite internet market holds huge potential as it captures 73% of the global space industry.
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