As M2M becomes more sophisticated and access to data becomes important even outside mobile-enabled geographical locations, satellite is coming to the fore as an important capability for M2M in general, extending the reach of M2M beyond areas covered by GSM and other mobile technologies.
This is not to say that satellite hasn’t always played a part in global M2M puzzle - in many ways satellite providers such as Globalstar have been there right from the start (the company was launched as a joint venture between Loral and Qualcomm in 1991; even then, data services for M2M were arguably more successful than voice telephony services, due to latency). What is changing now is the extent that they can be integrated into other mobile communications systems.
With a little imagination, an endless array of potential uses for satellite in an M2M
context come to mind, some of which are using satellite M2M already, of course: tracking fish, vessels and pirates; managing populations of endangered animals; keeping track of inaccessible sheep in remote areas of Norway.
Indeed, satellite provider Iridium outlines the breadth of service available from satellites: "Reaching over oceans, through airways and across the Polar Regions, [satellites] are ideally suited for industries such as maritime, aviation, government/military, emergency/humanitarian services, mining, forestry, oil and gas, heavy equipment, transportation and utilities."
And the M2M specialists are keen too. For example, M2M service provider Numerex has unveiled a new, unlimited satellite-based solution for tracking critical and high-value assets, dispersed to virtually any location worldwide, with a reporting frequency of as little as every five minutes. This permits access to a 32-satellite network with global coverage, and the costs of such connections are competitive, with fees starting at around $60 per month.
Meanwhile the big daddy of satellite communications, Globalstar, has been working hard to extend its reach to even more remote geographical regions by forming a partnership with Broadband Botswana Internet (BBi) to construct a satellite gateway in the capital city Gaborone. This allows for coverage of Botswana and surrounding countries such as South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Madagascar, Swaziland, Lesotho, Malawi, Angola, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Burundi and Zambia. Satellite voice and data services are targeted at industries including mining, farming and logistics, as well as being made available to private users.