Astro Digital is a developer, manufacturer and operator of small satellite systems, and under the agreement it will build satellites for the EchoStar LEO constellation.
The satellites are scheduled to become operational in 2024 and will enable global IoT, machine-to-machine (M2M) and services data transfer. EchoStar will operate the constellation from its Australian subsidiary, EchoStar Global.
According to the company, the satellites in the constellation will have a software-defined radio with built-in storage and processing to enable two-way device connectivity, and will support the LoRa protocol for low-power, long-range applications.
With support for 5G non-terrestrial network (NTN) services, this grouping will serve as the basis for EchoStar to develop NTN capabilities based on the new 5G radio (NR) according to 3GPP Release 17 specifications, EchoStar said.
“These new capabilities will fill a gap in the connected ecosystem, greatly expanding IoT interoperability around the world,” Josh Williams, managing director of EchoStar Global Australia. "Our team, together with Astro Digital, has already begun the integration of our Australian operations to bring to market a truly global solution with consistent and reliable network performance."
The company also operates the MSS network in Europe - through its subsidiary EchoStar Mobile Ltd - using the EchoStar XXI geostationary satellite, which will operate with the new LEO constellation.
Other competitors in the field include Astrocast – which launched its bi-directional IoT satellite service in early 2022 for commercial use, aimed at connecting IoT devices around the world for use outside of terrestrial cellular networks – and Wyld Networks, which in December 2022 launched a satellite IoT service that enables battery-powered applications to be deployed in remote locations without ground connectivity.
In addition, OQ Technology, a 5G-based IOT satellite operator, recently raised a €13 million Series A funding round led by Wa'ed Ventures, the venture capital arm of Saudi oil and gas company Aramco.