Orbcomm and U-Blox mix terrestrial and satellite IoT

  • August 16, 2023
  • Steve Rogerson

Orbcomm is working with Swiss firm U-Box to converge terrestrial and satellite IoT communications markets.

Cellular and satellite IoT communications markets have grown and will continue to do so for years to come. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report (2022), the number of cellular IoT connections was approximately 0.5bn in 2016, projected to reach around 5.5bn by 2028. And, according to a satellite IoT communications market report by Berg Insights, the market is expected to triple by 2025.

Although so far growing independently, the potential of combining these two technologies is appealing. Together, gap-free global connectivity for IoT communications, including previously uncovered areas, becomes much more attainable for IoT deployers. This partnership aims to bring the power of highly-integrated, dual-connectivity to deliver on the promise of these markets’ fusion.

With this partnership, U-Blox will directly integrate support for Orbcomm’s satellite communication protocols into its UBX-R52/S52 LPWA modem SoC. The result is a chipset optimised, smaller, less complex, and that offers dual connectivity at a lower cost. This chipset will be at the core of future U-Blox modules supporting terrestrial LPWA and satellite IoT protocols, thereby enabling connections almost anywhere in the world.

“The UBX-R52/S52 chipset is a mature technology platform with proven market acceptance among IoT providers,” said Martin Leach, head of cellular products at U-Box. “Specifically designed for IoT applications with long lifecycle needs, it will further strengthen U-Blox’s leadership in asset tracking. U-Blox’s partnership with Orbcomm will integrate satellite protocol support alongside cellular protocols. This integration will expand the addressable market for IoT applications, including remote locations without reliable cellular coverage.”

David Roscoe, Orbcomm executive vice president, added: “With decades of leadership and experience supporting satellite IoT deployments for some of the world’s largest enterprises, we are excited to see the convergence of cellular and satellite technologies into a powerful single device. Pairing Orbcomm’s proven satellite technology with U-Blox’s innovative UBX-R52/S52 chipset will allow customers deploying IoT in the supply chain, heavy equipment and agriculture industries to benefit from ubiquitous coverage, device simplicity, along with optimal reliability and longevity.”

The collaboration between Orbcomm and U-Blox should facilitate the emerging demand from IoT deployers for products capable of connecting devices virtually anywhere on earth, including remote locations, areas with poor cellular coverage and isolated environments such as in the middle of the ocean.

Industrial IoT applications that can benefit include asset tracking in logistics, retail and manufacturing; tracking and telematics equipment for agriculture, construction and mining; livestock tracking; and industrial sensors.

With headquarters in Thalwil, Switzerland, U-Blox has offices in Europe, Asia and the USA.

Avnet Silica has announced a partnership with U-Blox. This collaboration not only enriches Avnet Silica’s portfolio, but prioritises GNSS and short-range radio, followed by cellular technologies.