As the world becomes increasingly connected, the demand for seamless communication and information sharing has skyrocketed. Mobile satellite services (MSS) play a crucial role in this global connectivity, providing mobile communication and data transfer services to remote and underserved areas.
This article reviews the world of MSS, exploring what it is, its applications, who the customers are, what the customer adoption challenges are, who the MSS operators are and the challenges they face.
What is MSS?
MSS is a network of communication satellites and ground stations that provide voice, data, and messaging services to mobile and portable devices. Unlike terrestrial communication networks, which rely on fixed infrastructure such as cell towers and fiber-optic cables, MSS operates independently of ground-based infrastructure. This enables MSS to deliver communication services to remote, hard-to-reach locations, and during times when conventional communication networks are unavailable or disrupted.
MSS Market Size
According to Next Move Strategy Consulting, the global MSS market is forecasted to grow at a rate of 5.8% from USD 4.06 Billion in 2019 to USD 7.55 Billion in 2030.
What is MSS used for?
MSS has a broad range of applications, including:
|Voice communication||MSS enables voice calls between satellite phones or other mobile devices in remote areas without terrestrial infrastructure, such as during natural disasters, in remote locations, or at sea.|
|Data communication||MSS supports data transmission, such as internet access, file transfers, and email services, to users in remote locations, where traditional cellular or Wi-Fi networks may not be available.|
|Tracking and monitoring||MSS allows for real-time monitoring and tracking of vehicles, ships, and aircraft, providing essential information on their location, speed, and direction for logistics and fleet management, as well as search and rescue operations.|
|Emergency services||MSS provides reliable communication during disasters or emergencies when terrestrial networks may be damaged or overloaded, enabling coordination of relief efforts, and facilitating communication between first responders.|
|Maritime communications||MSS supports voice and data communication services for ships at sea, including distress alerts, weather updates, navigation data, and ship-to-ship or ship-to-shore communication.|
|Aeronautical communications||MSS enables in-flight connectivity for passengers and crew, as well as real-time communication between aircraft and ground control for air traffic management and operational support.|
|Military and government applications||MSS provides secure communication channels for military and government personnel in remote or challenging environments, enabling coordination of operations, intelligence gathering, and secure data transmission.|
|Environmental monitoring||MSS supports remote sensing and data collection from sensors and monitoring stations in remote areas, providing essential information for environmental research, natural resource management, and disaster response.|
|Telemedicine||MSS enables remote medical consultations and diagnostics, as well as the transmission of medical data, images, and reports to and from remote or mobile healthcare facilities.|
|IoT and M2M communication||MSS supports machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and the Internet of Things (IoT) by providing connectivity to remote devices and sensors, facilitating data collection, remote control, and asset tracking.|
Who are the Customers?
MSS customers include a diverse range of users, including:
|Government and military||MSS are essential for secure communication, coordination, and intelligence gathering during military operations or government missions, especially in remote or challenging environments.|
|Emergency services and first responders||Police, firefighters, and medical teams rely on MSS during disasters or emergencies when terrestrial networks may be damaged or overloaded, enabling coordination of relief efforts and communication among responders.|
|Maritime industry||Shipping companies, commercial fishing fleets, and recreational boaters use MSS for voice and data communications, navigation, weather updates, and distress alerts while at sea.|
|Aviation industry||Airlines and aircraft operators utilize MSS for in-flight connectivity for passengers and crew, as well as real-time communication between aircraft and ground control for air traffic management and operational support.|
|Oil and gas industry||Offshore oil rigs, remote pipeline infrastructure, and exploration teams depend on MSS for secure and reliable voice and data communication, remote monitoring, and emergency response.|
|Mining and construction||Companies operating in remote or isolated locations use MSS for communication, coordination, and remote monitoring of their assets, machinery, and personnel.|
|Environmental and scientific research||Researchers conducting fieldwork in remote or inaccessible areas rely on MSS for data collection, remote sensing, and communication with their teams and research centers.|
|Media and broadcasting||Journalists, reporters, and broadcasters working in remote locations or conflict zones use MSS to transmit news, reports, and live coverage to their headquarters and the wider world.|
|Telemedicine and healthcare||Remote clinics, mobile healthcare units, and medical professionals working in remote locations use MSS for remote consultations, diagnostics, and transmission of medical data, images, and reports.|
|Logistics and transportation||MSS supports fleet management, tracking, and monitoring of vehicles, ships, and aircraft to ensure efficient routing and timely delivery of goods and services.|
|Adventure tourism and expedition||Tour operators and adventurers in remote regions use MSS for communication, navigation, and emergency support during their activities.|
|Agriculture||Farmers and agribusinesses use MSS for remote monitoring and control of irrigation systems, field sensors, and other agricultural equipment.|
|Utilities||Electric, water, and gas utility companies use MSS for monitoring and control of their remote infrastructure, such as power plants, substations, water treatment facilities, and pipeline networks.|
|Disaster management and relief organizations||International relief organizations and NGOs often require MSS to coordinate their disaster response efforts, provide logistical support, and maintain communication with remote teams in affected areas.|
|Search and rescue (SAR) operations||Coast guards, maritime authorities, and other SAR teams depend on MSS for real-time communication, coordination, and tracking during search and rescue missions at sea, in the air, or on land.|
|Geologists and seismologists||Professionals working in geology, seismology, and related fields utilize MSS for data collection and communication during fieldwork, particularly in remote or inaccessible areas.|
|Forestry and wildlife management||Forest rangers, wildlife researchers, and conservationists rely on MSS for communication, remote monitoring, and tracking of wildlife and natural resources in protected areas or remote locations.|
|Polar research and operations||Researchers and organizations operating in the Arctic or Antarctic regions depend on MSS for essential communication, data transmission, and navigation in these extreme and isolated environments.|
|Border control and security agencies||Agencies responsible for border security and control use MSS for communication, surveillance, and tracking of personnel, vehicles, and assets in remote or challenging terrain.|
|Remote communities and settlements||People living in remote or isolated areas, such as rural communities or island settlements, rely on MSS for communication, internet access, and emergency support when terrestrial networks are not available.|
Customer Adoption Challenges
MSS operators face the following customer adoption challenges, including:
|Cost||The cost of MSS equipment, such as satellite phones, terminals, and antennas, can be higher than their terrestrial counterparts. Additionally, the subscription and usage fees for satellite services can be expensive, making it a less attractive option for cost-sensitive customers.|
|Complexity||MSS systems may involve complex installation and setup procedures, particularly for fixed installations or large-scale deployments. Customers may require specialized technical knowledge or assistance to deploy and maintain MSS equipment.|
|Network performance||The inherent latency in satellite communications can impact the performance of certain applications, such as real-time gaming, video conferencing, or voice calls. Data rates may also be limited, particularly in comparison to terrestrial broadband services.|
|Equipment size and portability||MSS terminals, particularly for broadband services, can be larger and heavier than their terrestrial counterparts. This can make them less suitable for mobile applications or scenarios where compactness and portability are crucial.|
|Service coverage and availability||While MSS providers aim to offer global coverage, there may be gaps or limitations in coverage, particularly in polar regions or areas with challenging terrain. Network capacity may also be limited, which can impact the quality of service during periods of high demand.|
|Weather sensitivity||Satellite signals can be affected by adverse weather conditions, such as heavy rain or snow, which can cause signal degradation or loss. Customers in regions with frequent adverse weather may experience service disruptions or reduced performance.|
|Security and privacy concerns||Satellite communications can be vulnerable to eavesdropping, jamming, or cyberattacks. Customers with high security or privacy requirements may have concerns about adopting MSS and may need to invest in additional security measures.|
|Regulatory and licensing issues||Depending on the country or region, customers may need to obtain specific licenses or permits to operate MSS equipment. This can be time-consuming and costly, particularly in countries with strict regulatory requirements.|
|Limited awareness and understanding||Many potential customers may have limited knowledge or awareness of MSS and its capabilities. This can make it difficult for them to assess the suitability of MSS for their specific needs and requirements.|
|Competition from terrestrial networks||As terrestrial networks, such as cellular and fiber-optic broadband, continue to expand and improve, customers may be more inclined to choose these more familiar options over MSS, particularly in urban and developed areas where terrestrial networks are more readily available.|
|Vendor lock-in and compatibility||Customers may face challenges related to vendor lock-in or compatibility issues between different MSS providers or equipment. This can limit their flexibility and make it more difficult to switch providers or integrate with other communication systems.|
|Support and maintenance||Access to technical support and maintenance services can be a challenge for customers adopting MSS, particularly in remote or isolated areas. Customers may need to rely on local support services or develop in-house expertise to manage and maintain their MSS equipment.|
Companies Offering MSS
The Mobile Satellite Services industry is composed of several key players who offer a variety of communication solutions for diverse applications. Here are some of the companies providing MSS:
Founded in 1979, Inmarsat is a UK-based company that specializes in providing global mobile satellite services for the maritime, aviation, government, and enterprise sectors. Their services include voice, broadband, and IoT connectivity.
Iridium is a US-based company that operates a constellation of 66 low-Earth orbit satellites, providing global voice and data communication services for various industries, including maritime, aviation, government, and public safety.
Globalstar is a US-based MSS provider that offers satellite voice and data services, including satellite phones, asset tracking, and IoT connectivity solutions, for customers in industries such as maritime, aviation, emergency management, and outdoor recreation.
Established in the United Arab Emirates, Thuraya provides MSS in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Asia, focusing on satellite voice, broadband, and IoT solutions for industries like maritime, energy, defense, and media.
Intelsat, a Luxembourg-based company, is one of the world's largest providers of satellite services, offering a range of communication solutions for media, government, and enterprise customers. Although primarily focused on fixed satellite services (FSS), Intelsat also provides mobile satellite services.
Another Luxembourg-based company, SES operates a fleet of geostationary and medium Earth orbit satellites, delivering a wide range of services such as video broadcasting, data networks, and mobility solutions, including MSS for maritime and aeronautical applications.
Viasat is a US-based company that provides satellite-based communication services, including satellite internet, voice, and data solutions for residential, aviation, maritime, government, and military customers.
Eutelsat is a French satellite operator that mainly focuses on fixed satellite services but also offers mobile satellite services for maritime and aeronautical applications.
Based in Canada, Telesat provides satellite communication services for government, broadcast, and enterprise sectors. They offer MSS solutions for aeronautical and maritime customers.
EchoStar, a US-based company, offers satellite-based communication services, including MSS for various applications such as emergency response, disaster recovery, and remote connectivity.
Operator Service Delivery Challenges
MSS operators face a number of challenges associated with service delivery, including:
|High capital and operational costs||Developing, launching, and maintaining satellite systems is a capital-intensive endeavor. MSS operators need to invest heavily in research and development, satellite manufacturing, launch services, and ground infrastructure.|
|Spectrum management and interference||MSS operators need to acquire and manage radio frequency spectrum, which is a finite resource. They may face interference from other satellite operators or terrestrial networks, which can degrade the quality of their services.|
|Latency and data rates||Due to the distances involved in satellite communication, MSS may experience higher latency compared to terrestrial networks. This can impact the performance of some applications, such as real-time gaming or video conferencing. Additionally, data rates may be limited, particularly for geostationary satellites, affecting the user experience.|
|Regulatory and licensing challenges||MSS operators must navigate complex regulatory environments and obtain licenses to operate in different countries. This can be time-consuming and costly, especially in regions with multiple jurisdictions or countries with strict regulatory requirements.|
|Competition from terrestrial networks||As terrestrial networks, such as cellular and fiber-optic broadband, continue to expand and improve, MSS operators face increasing competition, particularly in urban and developed areas where terrestrial networks are more readily available.|
|Limited coverage and network capacity||While MSS operators aim to provide global coverage, there may still be gaps in coverage, particularly in polar regions or areas with challenging terrain. Network capacity may also be limited, particularly during periods of high demand or in congested regions.|
|Terminal size, cost, and power consumption||MSS terminals, particularly for broadband services, can be larger, more expensive, and consume more power than their terrestrial counterparts. This can make them less attractive to consumers and businesses, particularly for mobile applications.|
|Adverse weather conditions||Satellite signals can be affected by atmospheric conditions, such as heavy rain or snow, which can cause signal degradation or loss. This can be particularly challenging for MSS operators providing services in regions with frequent adverse weather.|
|Space debris and collision risks||The increasing amount of space debris orbiting the Earth poses a risk to satellites, as collisions can cause severe damage or loss of satellite functionality. MSS operators need to monitor and mitigate the risk of collisions, which can be a complex and resource-intensive task.|
|Technological advancements and obsolescence||As technology evolves, MSS operators must continually invest in research and development to maintain their competitive edge and ensure their satellite systems remain relevant and capable of meeting customer demands.|
|Security and privacy concerns||Satellite communications can be vulnerable to eavesdropping, jamming, or cyberattacks. MSS operators must invest in secure communication protocols and encryption technologies to protect customer data and ensure the privacy and security of their services.|
|Market penetration and customer acquisition||MSS operators need to continually market their services and acquire new customers to maintain growth and profitability. This can be challenging in a competitive environment with numerous service providers and communication options.|