The Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionized industry by providing unprecedented levels of connectivity, data collection, and analysis. By enabling devices to connect and communicate with each other, IoT has facilitated smarter, faster business decisions across almost every sector. In 2021, a reported 77% of companies had implemented at least one IoT project, while the remaining 23% were either testing a project or planning to do so within the next two years.

IoT projects offer three main benefits: improved operational efficiency, enhanced customer experience, and new revenue streams. Consulting firm McKinsey predicts that IoT could create $5.5 to $12.6 trillion of value globally by 2030. However, 75% of businesses reported experiencing connectivity issues when testing IoT projects, and 91% believe that satellite connectivity is crucial for improving the effectiveness of IoT solutions.

What is satellite IoT?

IoT refers to a system of interconnected devices, including those that are connected to the internet. Satellite IoT, on the other hand, describes systems and networks, or assets within a network, that are connected via satellite. This can include a range of devices such as sensors, trackers, and other smart devices, often situated in remote or hard-to-reach areas where cellular coverage is unreliable or unavailable, and where building the appropriate infrastructure to support fiber connectivity would not be financially feasible.

Satellite-enabled devices collect data, which is then transmitted to a satellite within the chosen network. The satellite then relays the data to a ground station, from where it is sent to the application endpoint for processing and analysis. This enables real-time monitoring and control of devices and applications, even in remote locations, making it an ideal solution for industries such as oil and gas, agriculture, and utilities.

Exploring the different types of satellite IoT networks

Satellite networks are critical in supporting remote IoT connectivity, and they can be categorized into three types based on their orbit heights: Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), and Geostationary (GEO).

LEO is the closest orbit to the Earth’s surface, ranging from 160-2,000 km (99-1243 miles). MEO is a relatively rare orbit, with only 10% of satellites orbiting between 10,000-20,000 km from the Earth’s surface. The furthest orbit is GEO at 35,786 km (22,236 miles).

Satellite networks also differ based on their deployment location and ground coverage area, which makes them more suitable for specific IoT use cases. For instance, cross-linked LEO satellite constellations offer low latency and global coverage, making them ideal for mobile applications like asset tracking. MEO satellites, with broader coverage areas, are used for global navigation and timing services. GEO satellites offer a stable and reliable connection that’s ideal for higher data rates in static use cases, such as monitoring oil and gas pipelines.

Choosing the right satellite network for your IoT use case requires an understanding of the different types of networks available and their unique capabilities.


LEO satellite connectivity for IoT

Satellites in LEO, which orbit closest to the Earth, move quickly and take only 90 minutes to circle the planet. They are much smaller than MEO and GEO satellites and provide coverage to a relatively small area of the planet’s surface as they travel overhead. Three ways are commonly used to maximize coverage for LEO satellites.

Some satellite operators, such as Iridium, create a mesh network to ensure reliable connectivity. Satellites within a mesh network can communicate with one another, passing data from one satellite to another until the final destination is reached. Antennas communicating with a mesh network don’t need to be pointed towards a single satellite, making these networks ideal for mobile IoT applications like weather balloons or data buoys.

Another option is to have fewer satellites but more ground stations, which allows for more bespoke local service provisions such as local network access. This is used by Globalstar and Orbcomm.

Newer entrant satellite operators, such as Swarm, have opted for a relatively large number of very small satellites called cubesats. The sheer quantity of satellites means there is almost always one overhead, so antennas don’t need to be pointed.

Cubesats are also popular for various space missions, including Earth observation, communication, and scientific research. Due to their small size and low cost, cubesats can be relatively inexpensively used to build constellations of satellites for various applications, including satellite IoT connectivity. However, their small size leads to a shorter operational life expectancy, so operators need large numbers of active and failover cubesats to ensure wide-spread and reliable coverage.

MEO satellites

MEO (Medium Earth Orbit) satellites orbit the Earth at a higher altitude than LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites, usually between 2,000 and 36,000 kilometers. Because they are larger than LEO satellites, MEO satellites can cover more ground and offer more stable connectivity. They are commonly used in aviation and maritime applications, where reliable communication is critical for safety. MEO satellites also offer higher data rates, making them well-suited for IoT applications that require the quick transmission of large amounts of data, such as video surveillance and remote sensing.

However, MEO satellites have a longer round-trip time, which can result in higher latency, and they are more expensive to launch and maintain than LEO satellites. This can make them less accessible for smaller IoT applications. SES and Galileo are examples of network operators that use MEO satellites.

Geostationary satellites

Geostationary satellite connectivity involves satellites positioned at a fixed spot above the Earth’s equator, around 36,000 kilometers away from the surface. This type of connectivity is ideal for applications requiring high bandwidth and consistent signal coverage, such as video streaming, remote surgery, and aviation communications. Each geostationary satellite can cover almost a third of the Earth’s surface, making it perfect for providing connectivity in remote or hard-to-reach areas. Because the satellite is stationary, it can provide a constant link between the IoT device and the ground station.

However, the high altitude of geostationary satellites results in higher latency of about 700 milliseconds (compared to 50 milliseconds for LEO satellites), which can affect certain applications that require real-time responses. Also, because there are only a limited number of geostationary orbital slots available, the cost of launching a new satellite and securing a slot can be prohibitively expensive.

Despite these limitations, geostationary satellite connectivity remains a valuable option for IoT applications that require high bandwidth and wide coverage. Inmarsat, Intelsat, and Eutelsat are examples of network operators that use geostationary satellites.

Choosing the right type of satellite IoT

Selecting the appropriate type of satellite IoT entails considering numerous factors. At Ground Control, we typically guide our clients through a series of questions to help them narrow down their choices, including:

  • How much data does your application consume?
  • How time-sensitive is the data you receive?
  • Where are your assets situated?
  • Are your assets stationary or in motion?
  • What degree of data security do you need?

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it should provide a good starting point for initial research.

We understand that navigating the world of satellite IoT can be challenging, which is why our team of experts is always available to answer your inquiries and help you pick the right solution for your company. Please contact us at today to learn more about how we can assist you in connecting from anywhere in the world.

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In this article, we’ll explore the wireless connectivity options available for IoT devices in the USA, including the differences between NB-IoT and LoRaWAN. We’ll focus on how satellite connectivity and LoRaWAN can work together to maximize coverage, connectivity, and cost control.

Why choose Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) as a wireless solution for IoT devices?

If you need to transmit data wirelessly between sensors and gateways over a large area, you have the choice of cellular or LPWAN connectivity. However, cellular is expensive, power-hungry, and carries the risk of technology being retired. Additionally, only 15% of the Earth’s surface is covered by cellular networks (source: World Economic Forum).

LPWAN technologies have significant advantages, such as long battery lives, low cost, and long range. Although LPWAN can only transmit small amounts of data, it’s adequate for many IoT applications, such as environmental monitoring, asset management, tracking, and metering.

Within LPWAN there are many technologies and standards; we’ll just cover off the most popular choices here.


LTE-M is a wireless communication technology that’s mostly used in the USA. It provides high data rates, making it suitable for mobile applications. It’s also great for cross-border communication.

NB-IoT, on the other hand, transmits less data but consumes less power compared to LTE-M. It’s more widely available outside the USA and is generally less expensive. However, it requires roaming agreements between different telco providers, making it less effective for mobile use cases. Unlike LoRaWAN, NB-IoT communicates directly with the cloud, making networking easier. It also has the longest wireless reach, with devices able to communicate wirelessly up to 22 km. However, its stability is limited in rural areas with limited cellular or wifi connectivity.

LoRaWAN is a wireless communication technology that’s commonly used for stationary scenarios such as soil moisture sensors, water levels, gas/oil pipeline monitoring, and glacial melt. It combines the LoRa physical layer standard with the MAC layer and application standards. It can be used for some mobile IoT applications such as fleet monitoring and animal tracking because public networks cover large geographic areas. LoRaWAN networks are operated by telecom operators, but private networks can also be set up inexpensively. It offers relatively stable coverage in rural and remote areas, without depending on cellular or wifi, and can wirelessly connect devices up to 16 km apart.

LPWA connection share by technology, 2020-2025

LPWA connection share by technology, 2020-2025

By 2025, it’s anticipated that on a global scale, NB-IoT and LoRa will have 84% of the share of LPWA connections (Statista).

Where does satellite IoT come into play?

LPWAN technologies must be able to transmit their data to the cloud even when operating in remote areas where cellular or Wi-Fi coverage is not available. These areas may include mountains, oceans, deserts, and forests, which require a mechanism for data backhaul.

LoRaWAN data backhaul using satellite connectivity

One solution to this problem is using LoRaWAN data backhaul via satellite connectivity. For instance, sensors in a water treatment plant can transmit data using LoRaWAN to a gateway or hub, which receives and optimizes the data payload before transmitting it via satellite when cellular connectivity is unavailable.

The Iridium satellite constellation, which comprises 66 satellites in Low Earth Orbit, can provide worldwide coverage, making it an excellent choice for this purpose. The sensor data is returned to a ground station and forwarded to the desired application service, database, or dashboard. However, a geostationary satellite network such as Inmarsat could also be used if the gateway or hub has line-of-sight to the satellite.

A customer of Ground Control’s uses this method to capture sensor data from a remote reservoir in Wales, UK. The automated monitoring system detects potential equipment failures and alerts engineers to minimize unplanned maintenance visits. Logistical challenges, time, and cost implications made cabled solutions unfeasible. Therefore, satellites were used to backhaul LoRaWAN network data.

Where else can you see satellites and LoRaWAN working together?

Satellites and LoRaWAN technologies are used in various fields, including agriculture, mining, transportation and logistics, environmental monitoring, oil and gas, and renewable energy.

In agriculture, these technologies are used for a wide range of applications, such as monitoring soil temperature, moisture levels, nutrients, and water quality. In mining, they are used to monitor tailings storage facilities, resources, and pipelines. In transportation and logistics, they can be used to track end-to-end supply chain and prevent vehicle theft.

Environmental agencies use these technologies to monitor deforestation and ocean plastic, while in the oil and gas industry, they are used for pipeline and offshore site monitoring. Finally, in renewable energy, these technologies are used for solar array and wind farm monitoring.

Our top satellite terminals for LoRaWAN data backhaul

If you’re looking for satellite coverage and your use case is static and not in the polar regions, there are several options available. Emerging satellite operators like Astrocast and Sateliot with a small number of satellites might be able to provide the coverage you need. In addition, Inmarsat’s BGAN M2M service with its geostationary satellites is a reliable and affordable option. The Cobham Explorer 540 or the Hughes 9502 are good choices, both of which can be solar or battery-powered.

For static and mobile applications, the Iridium satellite network is a robust and truly global option. Iridium offers two airtime options for IoT data: Short Burst Data (SBD) and Certus 100. SBD is a message-based platform that can transmit payloads of up to 340 bytes up and 270 bytes down. If you need more capacity or an IP-based solution, Certus 100 offers both with an IP transmission option at 22/88 Kbps or a message-based option (called IMT) capable of 100kB/message.

The RockBLOCK Plus is a good option for SBD devices, while for Certus 100, the RockREMOTE (for use within an enclosure) or RockREMOTE Rugged is recommended.


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Connectivity is often identified as a barrier to IoT deployment success. Inmarsat’s 2023 Enterprise Insights ranked access to reliable IoT connectivity as a top challenge with over one third reporting difficulties (34%); and 33% struggling to implement IoT solutions in remote locations.

To harness the full value of IoT enablement, terrestrial, fiber and Long Range Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) are vital. But these networks are limited. Covering approximately 15% of the Earth’s surface, they do not provide the global coverage essential to capture all data points and fail to capture valuable insights from the most remote locations. This is where satellite IoT connectivity can help.

A staggering 91% of businesses surveyed by Inmarsat believe satellite connectivity is key to improving the effectiveness of IoT solutions. But many still consider satellite connectivity expensive. Our response? It’s far more cost-effective than you might think.

How to reduce Satellite IoT connectivity costs

IoT applications consist of multiple, connected devices which collect and analyze data in real-time. Applications dealing with mission critical data often also have devices intended for failover comms in the event that their main form of connectivity fails. To maximize project value, reliable connectivity is essential.

Since connectivity costs are largely based on the volume of data sent, optimizing data mobility can significantly reduce overall connectivity costs while maintaining maximum project value. Below are 5 ways businesses can reduce their overall satellite airtime costs:

  1. Remote terminal management
  2. Real-time data management
  3. Determine required data for each application
  4. Diversify connectivity options
  5. Edge computing
Cloudloop overview screen

1. Remote terminal management

To keep operational costs low, designing a network which minimizes manual intervention is key. Understandably then, many organizations with devices in remote locations will activate terminals and set these to always-on. Though this is rarely required, physically sending engineers to deactivate/reactivate terminals wouldn’t be worthwhile. But for companies who are able to control terminals remotely, for instance, deactivating devices when applications aren’t live.

Some companies offer platforms which allow remote activation, suspension, and deactivation. Often these platforms will allow companies to either leverage the API to integrate this service into their own platform or use an online UI to manage their device portfolio, irrespective of device location.

In the case of Ground Control, this is managed through our platform Cloudloop. Available via a customer-friendly UI or integrated directly into your business’s ecosystem, Cloudloop puts users in control of their devices and data.


2. Real-time data management

Typically, customers benefit from better data rates within service plans as opposed to pay-as-you-go options. So accurately predicting and then choosing the right data plan for each device before you start using it is an easy way to make sure you’re getting the best rate for your airtime. The other benefit is avoiding overage charges: these are applied if companies go over their allocated data allowance and are usually more expensive than the contracted rate. Again, having a well-defined view of your data requirements will minimize the amount of times you incur overage costs. If this is a relatively new IoT deployment, companies will likely need to make an educated guess. For those who feel less confident doing so, we recommend you speak to connectivity providers with experience of similar setups so they can advise on likely usage.

Moreover certain airtime and hardware providers offer data management services, allowing organizations to monitor device data usage in real-time. These help businesses avoid bill shock, making appropriate adjustments in real-time and identify if there is a particular device significantly above or below expected use. The latter can be used to help detect early signs of equipment failure or potential security breaches, so companies can take proactive measures.

Airtime-CTA footer

3. Determine required data for each application

Many businesses apply the same data transmission settings across all devices, all applications. Instead, adjusting settings based on actual application requirements can have a considerable impact on overall connectivity costs. For example, if you choose to send sensor data every 15 minutes but the application only requires data input once an hour; or is only monitoring data to ensure levels remain within specific parameters, you’ll be paying for unnecessary transmissions.

  • Frequency of data packets

    First, consider whether your project or application could tolerate a longer delay between data packets. For some applications it’d likely make little to no difference. Trial adjusting settings so instead of data being sent/received every 15 minutes, this becomes every 30 minutes or even once an hour.

  • Reporting on exception

    Second, does your company require all sensor data? A lot of the data involved in IoT applications verifies that operations are running as expected. Instead, can you configure your system and/or devices to only send data that falls outside set parameters – reporting on exceptions. Not all devices have this functionality but even incorporating a small number capable of supporting exception reporting like the RockREMOTE can lead to a substantial reduction.

4. Diversify connectivity portfolio

The satellite communications industry has seen incredible growth and innovation in the last few years. As such, the options available for both networks and services within those networks have diversified.

For businesses with IoT projects already up and running it’s worth reviewing satellite airtime plans; can cost savings be achieved through simple renegotiation, could assets within your network be switched to alternative more cost-effective services? There are multiple nuances to consider but the savings could be substantial.

One of the most important considerations is regarding message packet size. When utilising Iridium Certus 100, the minimum cost per session is 5KB allowing for a maximum of 20 sessions within (for example) a 100KB monthly bundle. In contrast, with Iridium’s Short Burst Data (SBD) service the minimum is just 10 bytes, meaning users could send 10,000 message packets. Depending on your application’s data requirements this could have a substantial impact. Though SBD is limited to a total of 340 bytes up and 270 bytes down, this is ideal for most asset tracking applications and often one of the most cost-effective satellite services.

For those who need to cover more complex telemetry projects for instance, in the Utilities sector, it’s more likely setups will leverage Inmarsat’s BGAN M2M service. In these situations more practical measures such as ensuring terminals are accurately pointed, reducing the likelihood of message packets being dropped, can help reduce overall costs.

Photo of BGAN installation

If you do have any specific queries related to airtime, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’ve been doing this for over 20 years and though we have significant relationships with both Iridium and Inmarsat we’re not tied to any one provider, just helping you find the best solution for your project and budget.


5. Edge computing

Edge computing is an emerging computing paradigm, which has arguably become a bit of a buzz term. In short, it allows companies to process data where the data is being generated – at the edge. This reduces overall data transmission, for example, to the cloud. Though data processing within the cloud has become popular in recent years, to achieve this, companies must first employ the relatively expensive transport mechanism of getting all data to the cloud. Instead, with edge computing, businesses can be more efficient with the volume of data sent, conducting some processing locally.

Again, not all devices are able to facilitate edge processing and typically companies with more established IoT deployments may have hundreds, if not thousands of units. So though it might not be economical to replace all units, in situations where terminals are reaching end of life or those organizing a new IoT deployment, choosing edge-computing-capable devices could be worthwhile. Edge-computing-capable devices can reduce overall connectivity costs and extend the life of other units within the network. So even a relatively small investment could prove beneficial.

As satellite technology advances with the likes of nanosats, it’s likely satellite communications will continue to become more cost-effective and services more diverse. In the meantime there are many tactics companies can employ to optimize data mobility and thus reduce satellite IoT costs.

If you or your team would like any advice on the best network or service fit for an IoT application, or would like to review your satellite IoT airtime costs, simply fill in the form below and one of our team will get in touch.

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Having partnered with satellite network providers such as Iridium and Inmarsat for well over a decade, we have access to competitively priced tariffs, and can also be very flexible in terms of bundled data.

So if you are working on an IoT project and would like some no pressure, objective advice, simply fill in the form and one of our expert team will get back to you.

Cisco’s Annual Report predicted there would be almost 30 billion connected devices by 2023 and Statista estimated 15.1 billion would be IoT connected devices. Though we are still scratching the surface of the possibilities open to us as a result of IoT and Industry 4.0, more generally, all of these technologies and outcomes are dependent on connectivity. Without connection, the insights available via data transmission and analysis remain elusive.

Supporting a increasingly connected world

In order to support this increasingly connected world, governments and organizations have largely focused on building out high-speed broadband networks, expanding wireless coverage and investing in smart city infrastructure. Though some parts of the globe have made significant progress, not least those in developed countries, there are still substantial gaps. At the beginning of 2022 the National Telecommunications and Information Administration estimated that one in five homes in the United States weren’t online.

In May 2022, the Biden-Harris administration launched a $45 billion ‘Internet for All’ initiative. The initiative includes programs which will build internet infrastructure, provide technology and teach digital skills to ensure all Americans have – “the access and skills they need to fully participate in today’s society”.

The future of 5G

5G’s role in supporting this interconnected world is significant. 5G enables a much larger number of connected devices to operate simultaneously, with faster response times and higher levels of reliability. This is particularly important for IoT applications that require real-time data processing, such as smart city infrastructure.

The 5G triangle represents the full spectrum of capabilities, from high speed data transfer to low latency connectivity for mission critical applications, and efficient connectivity for the large number of IoT devices that will be connected to the network.

5G Triangle

1. Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB)

Fast data transfer, low latency
Data transfer speeds up to 20 Gbps and latency as low as 1 millisecond
Use cases: High bandwidth applications, for example, video streaming and virtual reality.

2. Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC)

Low latency, high reliability
Latency as low as 1 millisecond and reliability of up to 99.999%
Use cases: Mission-critical applications such as autonomous vehicles.

3. Massive Machine-Type Communication (mMTC)

Low power, low bandwidth
Designed to support up to 1 million devices per square kilometre
Use cases: Applications with a high volume number of devices. For example, automated supply chain management, infrastructure for smart cities.

In addition, 5G can help to address some of the key challenges facing IoT, such as security and privacy, by providing more robust and reliable connectivity.

However, though 5G is capable of delivering broadband across short distances, it was designed to enhance coverage in urban regions with dense populations – not for rural, remote areas. 5G penetration of the North American population is approaching 30%, and is predicted to become the lead network technology in the US by 2025. But 5G will never cover the entirety of the US. So while significant, it’s clear telecommunications infrastructure alone cannot support this new interconnected world.

As Tom Stroup, President of the Satellite Industry Association explains – “We’ve seen a recognition that many of the things that are desired by 5G can only be achieved with the ubiquitous coverage that satellite networks provide.”

The increasing role of satellites within 5G infrastructure

Though connectivity is about more than coverage, one of the primary benefits of leveraging satellites in 5G networks is 100% global coverage. Unlike traditional mobile networks or fiber connectivity which rely on infrastructure, satellites can provide coverage anywhere and everywhere on Earth.

Another advantage is that Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites can deliver low latency, high speed connectivity. Latency is an important consideration for time critical applications such as remote surgery or autonomous vehicles where delays could lead to severe consequences. As LEO satellites are positioned between 160 – 2,000km (99 – 1243 miles) from the Earth’s surface, latency can be as low as 20 milliseconds which is comparable to that achieved via terrestrial networks. Moreover, the additional bandwidth would place 5G networks in the best possible position to accommodate ever increasing data traffic and number of connected devices.

Ultimately satellites could be used to complement 5G networks in three main ways:

  1. Expanding coverage to include rural, remote areas,
  2. Creating redundancies, and
  3. Additional backhaul.

Though it’s likely the role of satellites will look slightly different depending on the country and region and thus bandwidth and coverage already available, if successful these could lead to several additional business models.

But the how is slightly more complicated. Interoperability isn’t a new conversation within the communications industry but it wasn’t until 2017 that a formalized working group recommended 5G technology should be able to integrate non-terrestrial networks (NTN) such as fiber and satellites. Fast forward to July 2020, 3GPP Release 16 began to address this challenge.

What is

The Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), is a collaboration between various telecommunications standards organizations. The main focus of the 3GPP is to develop specifications for wireless communication systems, including 2G - 5G technologies. These specifications include protocols for cellular networks, as well as guidelines for interoperability between different devices and networks, including non-terrestrial networks.

3GPP Release 16

Release 16 outlined multiple significant improvements not least, access technology standards for using higher frequency New Radio, supporting greater signal bandwidth and lower latency. Of those relating to interoperability, dual connectivity was extended to support NTN. Meaning in theory satellites could connect assets in rural areas where cellular coverage was limited and integrated access and backhaul was named as an area of study.

Despite these improvements, there were some associated shortfalls. One of the main challenges with 5G over satellite is latency. While as previously mentioned, Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites can achieve latency times as low as those associated with cellular, this isn’t always possible. For geostationary (GEO) satellites, which are located roughly 34,000km+ above the Earth’s surface vs LEO’s 160 – 2,000km, the round-trip time is longer; closer to 270 – 540 milliseconds. As Release 16 didn’t account for this, it meant satellite operators needed to develop their own solution to mitigate potential latency issues.

What’s more, Release 16 didn’t account for mobility issues. This is more applicable to LEO satellites as these networks create a mesh of satellites around the globe and pass data as required between these satellites and various ground stations. Particularly in the case of asset tracking applications where assets are moving, mobility and thus handing data from one satellite to another, becomes more important.

While Release 16 defines the interfaces between the UE and the core network, it does not provide detailed guidance on how to handle handovers between terrestrial and satellite networks. This can result in disruptions to the user experience as the UE moves between different network environments.

Ultimately Release 16 highlighted the importance of collaboration. Just one great example formed following Release 16 is that between Inmarsat and MediaTek in late 2020.


Their collaboration involved a successful field trial which ultimately contributed to 3GPP’s Release 17 standardization work on NTN. Utilizing NB-IoT technology, a bi-directional link from MediaTek’s satellite-enabled narrowband service to Inmarsat’s Alphasat L-band GEO satellite was established. As Jonathan Beavon, Senior Director at Inmarsat concluded – “testing MediaTek’s standard NB-IoT chip over Inmarsat’s established GEO satellite network has proven technology from mobile networks works effectively over GEO satellites with little modification and will provide a very cost effective path to ubiquitous and hybrid global IoT coverage.”

Release 17:5G over satellite Direct-to-Device

In 2022, 3GPP Release 17 marked the most recent standard for 5G Networks and was the first to outline technical specifications for direct-to-device 5G over satellite.

3GPP release 17 timeline and breakdown

Specifically addressing interoperability, Integrated Access and Backhaul (IAB), and network slicing were extended to support NTN. The former, IAB, is particularly relevant for satellite operators as it helps address issues associated with latency by providing a more direct connection between device and satellite. Network slicing on the other hand is best exemplified by applications such as smart cities. Network slicing enables specific applications within the wider smart city network to utilize allocated network slices. So in the case of traffic monitoring and management, prioritizing the utilization of a low latency, high bandwidth network slice ensures this application is better supported.

Release 17 also included additional features for dual connectivity. These cover support for more advanced network slicing configurations, which can help to improve the efficiency of network resources.

Moreover, Release 17 outlined enhanced support for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. Mobility issues were addressed by new features such as satellite handover, enabling seamless connectivity as devices move from one satellite to another.

The future of remote communications

Release 17 was the first to position satellites as a critical component of the 5G ecosystem. Though this is a significant step forward, introducing new technology into any architecture is not something which can be achieved overnight and in the case of satellites, there are two relatively large challenges to integration: regulatory and capital. There may be regulatory issues related to spectrum allocation and licensing and there are well documented business challenges related to the cost of deploying and operating satellite networks.


In the case of satellites, it’s not quite as simple as changing a SIM or updating firmware over the air. Satellites are largely programmed prior to launch. In most cases it would mean launching additional satellites within a constellation to add the technology required to support these interoperability features.

If for example, satellite operators had incorporated 2G or 3G network technology, both of which are now in the process of sunsetting, those additional features would be becoming redundant. In short, there are benefits to maintaining proprietary technology and this is how many of the longer standing satellite operators have conducted business.

Despite the noise the reality of integration is slow. Currently many of the in-built phone functions depend on 5G NTN technology. Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon X75 chipsets, leveraging Iridium’s satellite network are due for sampling in Q2 of 2023 (now), with expected select shipping estimated for Q3 and 4. Other companies, including Apple have demo able tech which incorporates NTN using Qualcomm X65 chipsets. But this is limited to one usable band n53 – served by the Globalstar constellation and no concrete timelines have been provided for when this might be available in consumer handsets. In short, while advances are exciting we are still very much in the early stages of development and thus the exact role of satellites within 5G architecture is unclear.

What is clear however, interoperability is top of mind for many just now. Just this week, 13th March, Iridium’s CEO Matt Desch hosted a session at the SATELLITE 2023 event titled – The Satellite-Cellular Convergence – A New Era for the Telco Industry?

The last few years within the satellite industry has seen incredible growth and innovation but not all new players entering space will be here for the long term. Just as not all technology within the 3GPP standard – NB-IoT (Narrowband Internet of Things), LTE-M (Long-Term Evolution for Machines), 5G NR – will be here for the long term. The challenge now lies with satellite operators and bodies such as 3GPP to create and maintain technology standards which all players can bet on. Ultimately, the only way to support the ever increasing number of connected devices, is with both 5G and Satellite technology and once this tech does land, it’ll be very disruptive and beneficial for users.

Unsure which communications network is best for your IoT project?

We can help. Having partnered with satellite network providers such as Iridium and Inmarsat for well over a decade, we have access to competitively priced tariffs, and many of our products allow dual connectivity.

So if you are working on an IoT project and would like some no pressure, objective advice, simply fill in the form and one of our expert team will get back to you.

The renewables landscape is changing. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that the ‘global energy crisis has triggered unprecedented momentum behind renewables, with the world set to add as much renewable power in the next 5 years as it did in the past 20’.

Partially due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, countries are increasingly motivated to invest in renewable energy technologies to reduce reliance on imported fuels. Wind and solar energy in particular will account for over 90% of the renewable power capacity that is added globally over the next five years, according to the IEA.

So what does this mean for wind power in the United States?

The rise of renewable energy and the pitfalls of unplanned maintenance

In the US, wind accounts for the largest source of renewable energy, generating nearly half of the total energy output. However, many wind farms are located in remote areas such as the Great Plains and have limited resilience against severe weather, power outages and downtime due to unplanned maintenance.

In the case of the latter, often, renewable energy providers rely on physical onsite maintenance to restore energy production, requiring significant resources, time and cost. It presents energy providers with a big challenge. Research by Wood Mackenzie Power into renewables in 2019 found that $8.5 billion was spent on unplanned repairs and corrections caused by component failures in wind operations.

This cost could be lowered and potentially avoided if sensors for predictive maintenance were operable, and the data generated is available consistently and in close to real-time. The US Department of Energy estimates that predictive maintenance saves up to 40% over reactive maintenance (source), and it’s an area where satellite IoT connectivity makes economic sense.


How SCADA data helps keep the turbines turning

For each wind farm – onshore or offshore – SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) data is reported. This includes weather data such as wind direction, various turbine parameters, and errors encountered by the system, normally at 10-minute intervals.

It’s this historical SCADA data that provides invaluable insights to generate a robust approach to monitoring turbine performance, identifying patterns and predicting failures for better predictive maintenance planning and less downtime. Via satellite-driven data monitoring, renewable data intelligence is delivered in seconds. This enables engineers, maintenance managers and data scientists the ability to plan, predict and act to close the gap in remote wind turbine data monitoring challenges.

Why there’s a better way than cellular, fiber and onsite personnel

Unlike cellular and fiber connectivity – which in many cases is not a feasible solution due to the remote locations of wind farms – satellite IoT is truly global. Satellite connectivity ensures reliable remote data monitoring from individual turbines to entire wind farms allowing optimization and ongoing performance assurance of wind energy output.

BGAN M2M terminals are designed to connect monitoring and control applications in remote, unmanned locations like wind farms, to provide visibility and management of those assets. Remote management of the terminal can be achieved via SMS, eliminating the reliance on on-site maintenance crews, mitigating unplanned downtime and saving costs.

As an example, an experienced Field Engineer has a day rate of approx. $400, plus fuel, company vehicle maintenance and overtime. In contrast, the cost of operating a BGAN satellite connectivity terminal can be as little as $63 per month for up to 20MB; not only is this a clear saving over physically sending an engineer into the field, the data is available in close to real-time, all the time.


How satellite IoT closes the gap with BGAN M2M

Operating on both Inmarsat BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) and cellular 2G/3G/LTE networks, these devices keep data flowing to enable predictive maintenance.

While wind farm resilience against severe weather will continue to be tested, the challenges of power outage predictions and production downtime due to unplanned maintenance can be solved via the adoption of BGAN M2M IoT solutions.


How we can help overcome your data monitoring challenges

Ground Control can solve renewable energy monitoring challenges with satellite IoT. We help our customers achieve an accurate, real-time, 360 view of their data and operations; anywhere and everywhere. If you’d like some impartial advice on the best device and airtime for your data monitoring requirements, get in touch. With 20 years’ of experience, we’re confident we can help.

    Register for our newsletter to get a monthly round up of the latest news in satellite, M2M and IoT. No spam, no third parties, just great content from our team of experts - and you can opt out at any time.

    What is Iridium Certus? It’s a satellite service platform which is currently available in three variations: Certus 100, designed for IoT applications; Certus 200, designed for basic internet and voice, and Certus 700, which delivers the fastest L-band connectivity available today. It’s all enabled by the truly global Iridium constellation for total connectivity anywhere in the world.

    Whether it’s staying connected with loved ones while out at sea, responding to a critical emergency situation, or transmitting remote sensor data across a wide variety of industries, Iridium Certus 100, 200 and 700, coupled with mobile, portable and fixed hardware solutions by Thales and Ground Control, delivers important communication and data services when and where you need it most.

    Discover the best satellite-based connectivity solutions powered by Iridium Certus. Use the infographic to help you select the best solution and service for your needs.
    Iridium Certus Explained Infographic

    Certus 100 devices

    Ground Control is one of a very small number of manufacturers to have designed and built Certus 100-powered products. The RockREMOTE and RockREMOTE Rugged are basically identical, but the Rugged version is designed for use outside, or while mobile; if you have an enclosure, the original RockREMOTE will better meet your needs.

    These devices are intended for IoT applications. They offer hybrid cellular and satellite connectivity, with lowest cost routing, so that you’re only accessing the satellite network when necessary. You can transmit your sensor data over IP or use the new Iridium Messaging Transport (IMT) solution, which reduces the cost of transmission.

    The data allowance is relatively generous for IoT applications, allowing the transmission of images and multiple sensors’ data, in close to real-time (latency is less than one second). This makes the device ideal for security or remote access applications.

    Certus 100 Products & Airtime

    Certus 200 devices

    We partner with Thales to bring you two devices that leverage the Certus 200 network: the MissionLINK 200 and the VesseLINK 200. They are basically identical but the MissionLINK (pictured) is intended for land mobile use, and the VesseLINK for maritime.

    What we like about the Certus 200 service, and these two terminals, is how flexible they are. You can get basic internet access – enough for text-based communication across email, social media and messaging apps – and they also come with dedicated phone lines that work simultaneously with the internet access.

    They’ll comfortably manage the transmission of tracking and IoT as well, although only offer an IP-based transmission service, which will make them a little more expensive for these applications.

    Certus 200 Products & Airtime

    Certus 700 devices

    Iridium Certus 700 is the fastest L-band satellite solution available today, with speeds of up to 704 Kbps. This means that wherever you are, in whatever weather conditions, you’ll get reliable broadband internet and phone access for up to 12 connected devices (wireless or wired, your choice).

    We offer three Certus 700 devices: the Thales MissionLINK 700, designed for land mobile, the Thales VesseLINK 700, designed for maritime, and the MCD-MissionLINK (pictured), which takes the MissionLINK 700 terminal, and adds a battery (up to 6 hours of normal use), connection ports, and a ruggedized, waterproof, portable case.

    Delivering a mobile office whether you’re at land or sea, supporting web browsing, email and file transfer, and up to 3 simultaneous high-quality voice lines.

    Certus 700 Products & Airtime


    Interest piqued?

    With over 20 years’ experience in satellite and cellular connectivity, we take pride in pairing our customers with the most appropriate device and airtime for their needs. If you think Iridium Certus, Thales and RockREMOTE solutions could help you be better connected, we’d love to hear from you.

    We are proud to work with Iridium and Thales – some of the most reliable and innovative players in the market – and we also work with leading manufacturers and multiple airtime providers to ensure that customers get the best possible solution.

    If you’d like to talk to one of our experienced team about how you can keep your team connectivity, on land or at sea, with Thales or Rock satellite technology, simply email, or call us on +1.805.783.4600.

      Register for our newsletter to get a monthly round up of the latest news in satellite, M2M and IoT. No spam, no third parties, just great content from our team of experts - and you can opt out at any time.

      Most of us are familiar with the limitations of terrestrial networks. However, for those working as a field engineer or as part of an expedition team; who have been a competitor in a yacht race or taken part in military training; you’ll also know how important it is to overcome this limitation. Cellular connectivity only covers 15% of the globe and there are many reasons why someone may take the roads less travelled. For the purpose of this blog, the term remote personnel refers to anyone travelling outside cellular coverage regularly, or for an extended period of time – be that for work or leisure.

      For both safety and well-being, it’s essential that remote personnel have access to two-way communication that functions both in and out of cellular range. Determining a tracking and communication plan will reduce the chance of accidents and ensure swift response times in the case of an emergency; and by encouraging the use of two-way notifications and alerts, deliver peace of mind. This is where Ground Control’s RockSTAR device can help.

      Introducing the RockSTAR

      The RockSTAR is a lightweight, rugged, handheld device that can be used to send and receive short messages (like SMS and short emails) and track GPS location, through the Iridium satellite network and back to Earth. Simply, if the unit has a clear view of the sky, it’ll deliver two-way communications and virtually real-time tracking, anywhere and everywhere.


      How do RockSTAR devices work?

      Each RockSTAR unit houses an Iridium 9602 modem. This modem allows the device to leverage the Iridium Satellite network – using the ‘short burst data’ (SBD) service, to support location and messaging data transmission.

      The RockSTAR can be set to ‘wake up’ and transmit your location anywhere between 15 seconds and once a day. It’ll obtain a position using the GPS satellite network, and then transmit that position back to Ground Control HQ using the Iridium satellite network. In 1-2 seconds, the position can then be visualised on our easy-to-use web-based system or automatically set up to relay this information direct to your application.

      For example, if you’re a field technician working in a remote area, location data can be sent direct to whichever security tracking application your employer is using. What’s more, RockSTAR units have a great battery life. Even transmitting location data every 15 minutes, a device will last 3 weeks between charges.

      In addition to SBD being relatively low cost, there are no annual contracts, delivering flexibility for those who only require a satellite device like the RockSTAR for a specific trip or project. In short, if you or your team don’t need to use a device for a month or more, there won’t be any monthly fee, simply pay ‘per month, per device’.

      Additional RockSTAR features

      Designed and built by our team, the RockSTAR satellite device has also evolved throughout the years to better meet customer needs. The form factor has noticeably contracted, with the current device standing at just 7″ (144mm); other developments have helped create a feature-packed handheld unit.

      RockSTAR units can be used to send and receive short messages, including SMS and short emails to nominated groups. Groups are created and amended in the device’s settings and can include mobile phone numbers, email addresses and servers. Using the device itself, you can send pre-set messages or free text; the RockSTAR can also be paired with a mobile or tablet via bluetooth, enabling truly global two-way communications.

      The RockSTAR unit is configured with a number of alert options; for full details please see our article on RockSTAR alerts. All six device buttons can be activated by a user in gloves and the main SOS function is initiated via the button at the bottom of the device. When pressed, the unit immediately transmits your location and pre-set emergency message to those nominated within the device’s first-responder group.

      The RockSTAR unit can also be used for waypointing, so key points of interest or concern (in the case of wildland firefighting) can be marked while you’re out in the field, and then viewed on our web-based system.

      RockSTAR diagram showcasing device features: GPS tracking, secure two-way messaging, alerts and waypointing, ruggedized

      Common RockSTAR applications

      Because the RockSTAR device is ruggedized and waterproof, with a great battery life, the applications are vast. Our RockSTAR customers aren’t just worldwide, they’re travelling by land, air and sea. Operating in some of the most remote and harsh environments on Earth. To demonstrate this range, we’ve collated some of the most common remote personnel use cases supported by our RockSTAR devices today.


      Military training exercises are often held in remote locations, under challenging conditions. This can place significant strain on soldiers, thus tracking services are often employed for peace of mind and if needed, timely, mission-critical response. Ground Control worked in partnership with JCSys to tailor the RockSTAR hardware and firmware to meet the very specific and stringent requirements of the UK’s Ministry of Defence. The result? A compact and durable device able to track soldiers in all weather and military attire, and pair with BLE heart rate monitors. Additionally, developer-friendly APIs meant JCSys were able to securely receive telemetry data and add the required context to support a safe training environment.

      Many RockSTAR users are pilots and sailors - both often travelling outside mobile phone signal. The RockSTAR can provide peace of mind for family and fleet managers, delivering real-time location data. But it's also proven itself repeatedly as a safety device. First, in 2019; Sam Rutherford and his co-pilot were ferrying a propeller aircraft from West Virginia USA to Britain. Near blizzard-like conditions brought the plane down near Makkovik, Canada. Rutherford used a RockSTAR to send an SOS to his wife who was able to relay information to emergency services. Second, just last year, Tapio Lehtinen was forced to evacuate his yacht during the Golden Globe Race. It had flooded from the stern, with water reaching deck level in just 5 minutes. Tapio was able to activate his emergency satellite tracking device and was soon picked up by rescuers.
      Small helicopter

      RockSTAR devices are ideal for use in extreme environments where wifi or cellular coverage isn’t widely available. As well as being waterproof, units can operate in temperatures between -30 to 60 degrees Celsius and be operated by users in gloves. What’s more, currently Iridium is the only network able to offer truly global coverage - including both poles. We’re proud to have supported both researchers and explorers on multiple Antarctic trips, and our RockSTAR devices have even been used to monitor icebergs across Northern Canada.
      Iceberg in Canadian Arctic

      It is the duty of all law enforcement to “protect life and property through the enforcement of laws and regulations”. This includes serving those in rural-based communities, where cellular coverage may not be available, or intermittent. As all data to and from RockSTAR units can be encrypted up to AES-256 standards, the RockSTAR can be a great, relatively inexpensive solution for two-way communications. We’ve worked with various police units and law enforcement rangers, ensuring personnel maintain connected and tracked at all times.
      Policeman stood on bridge

      Thanks to satellite connectivity and innovations in technology, races previously deemed unsafe are now able to take place safely; allowing spectators and fellow competitors to track one another throughout. For yacht races, adventure sports that test human endurance, even off-road rallies, GPS tracking via satellite has truly transformed what’s possible. Partnering with JCSys, RockSTARs have been used to provide real-time monitoring across endurance races covering jungle, desert and ice caps, all of which have minimal mobile coverage. Race organisers were able to track participant progress and utilize geo-fences, to provide early warning to individuals who have stepped outside race areas.

      It’s essential that when medical personnel are caring for patients in remote areas, they can be reliably tracked and monitored. To ensure their safety, devices which are lightweight and discreet, with a long battery life are essential. Many security firms have specific applications for remote and lone worker safety, that can be utilised alongside devices such as the RockSTAR to provide a complete, secure solution. We have worked with many companies, creating/enabling specific alert criteria via our RockSTAR devices, even simplifying our menu to ensure it’s as easy as possible for users to access key functions.
      Remote medical workers - Nurse in community environment

      What sets the RockSTAR apart from other satellite devices?

      Flexible, Secure APIs

      We understand many customers will have their own remote worker and/or security applications - so we make getting that data easy. All data to and from the unit can be encrypted up to AES-256 standards, but we’re still able to give customers access to some of the lowest lines of code. This ensures all data transmissions are available in the required format, without compromising security.

      Truly Ruggedized

      The RockSTAR has been built to withstand the most challenging environments. Tried and tested everyday, everywhere from the Antarctic to the Australian desert, the Pacific Ocean to Rocky Mountains in North America. The device has a number of certifications including FCC and CE MIL-810 F/G for ruggedness, and is waterproof to IP-67.

      Customization Opportunities

      As manufacturers we have the flexibility to customize the device on larger orders. These ensure the RockSTAR is the best fit for our client’s project. They also enrich the device's functionality for future users. For example, when working with JCSys, to better safeguard soldiers, RockSTARs were adapted to disable switch off without a PIN code.

      GPS Tracking for Teams

      Whether you and your team have one RockSTAR or 1,000, Ground Control’s easy-to-use web platform simplifies device management. From the platform, you can track all of your field workers’ positions simultaneously, both in real-time and across set periods of time.

      Users can divide devices into relevant groups and set up multiple platform users with differing permissions. For example, some team members may only need to ‘view’ RockSTAR positions, while others could be allowed to send commands and configure devices in the field.

      Within the platform users are also able to:

      • Add line rental and credits
      • Monitor alerts from all devices
      • Set up relevant geofences, ensuring teams receive early warning if a device enters/exits specified areas.
      Screenshots of Ground Controls web platform for RockSTAR devices 2

      If you’re interested in learning more about the RockSTAR device and how units are supporting remote personnel with ubiquitous connectivity, take a look at our related content: RockSTAR Alerts | Case study – RockSTAR Provides Vital Tracking Telemetry for Soldiers and Ultra Runners | RockSTAR Used in Iridium Certus Demo.

      Likewise, if you have any queries you’d like to discuss with our team, simply fill in the contact form below.

      Got questions?

      Ground Control’s RockSTAR device helps deliver peace of mind to anyone working or travelling within remote locations - unit’s have literally saved lives. From security personnel to armed forces, humanitarian aid workers to aviators, the RockSTAR might be just what you need.

      For more information on how we can help solve your remote communication challenges and better safeguard you and your team, fill in the form and we'll match your enquiry with one of our experts.

      The renewables industry is growing. The operations required to generate power are expanding and the number of sites in remote on- and offshore areas is increasing.

      In late 2022, analysts at McKinsey estimated that in less than ten years, global renewable electricity capacity will rise more than 80% from 2020 levels to more than 5,022 gigawatts (source). Further, McKinsey predicts that of this growth, two thirds will be generated by wind and solar power – an increase of 150%. By 2035, it estimates that renewables will generate 60% of the world’s electricity.

      While the demand for renewable energy is growing rapidly, there are a number of challenges faced by the industry, from connectivity to security. It’s critically important that remote industrial IoT devices are connected to operations at the head office, as without this data, power outages could occur without real-time knowledge, maintenance monitoring cannot be anything but reactive, and performance could fall short of potential optimized output.

      Satellite IoT communications and monitoring can solve these challenges. And it’s genuinely not as expensive as you might think…

      CHALLENGE 1 – Connectivity for remote sites

      The solution – RockBLOCK Plus

      Renewable energy generation sites for hydro, wind and solar farms can often be in remote and even hostile locations. With terrestrial networks only covering 15% of the Earth’s surface (or 50% of the available landmass), and focused on highly populated and urban areas, renewables sites are often out of reach of cellular and fiber connectivity.

      There are numerous challenges in providing data backhaul from such remote sites, whether they’re in the development or deployment stages. Unconnected sites are siloed and leave operators unable to reach their assets unless deploying a lone worker to site – with the safety, time delays and additional costs all key considerations.

      Ground Control has deployed full end-to-end solutions for renewable providers to retrieve their data from the field in over 100 countries, recommending the best solution for their operational needs. For remote site data retrieval, the RockBLOCK Plus is rugged and waterproof – ideal for remote and exposed sites – and is designed specifically to transmit sensor data from IoT applications. RockBLOCK Plus sends and receives short messages from anywhere on Earth with a view of the sky, via Iridium SBD, as frequently as every 10 seconds, making the device ideal for remote performance monitoring and pre-empting maintenance requirements.


      CHALLENGE 2 – Combining distributed site data

      The solution – Cloudloop

      To enable renewable energy providers to balance supply and demand on the power grid, they must determine how much renewable energy is being generated at any given time. This can be challenging and even impossible to achieve without the use of satellite communication due to the size, scale and remote locations of renewable energy resources.

      As an example, what will become the world’s largest offshore wind farm is currently under construction 74.5 miles off the Yorkshire coast in the UK. To accurately manage, monitor and retrieve data from a vast generation site such as this one, the data from each asset needs to be combined into a single management platform.

      Cloudloop is Ground Control’s cloud-based software platform for subscription and device management. The software enables renewable providers to combine multiple and widely distributed sensor data into a singular entity to provide a complete visualization of their energy-generating operations.

      All device activations and deactivations, airtime management and troubleshooting can be achieved remotely via the Cloudloop platform. Monitoring in real-time, historical data usage and alerts enable proactive cost management, with diagnostics reporting significantly reducing field maintenance costs, regardless of the scale or distribution of the data loggers.

      CHALLENGE 3 – Security and cybercrime

      The solution – SCADASat

      Remote sites make the renewables industry a prime target for cybercrime. Notably, in 2021, hackers collectively known as DarkSide attacked the Colonial Pipeline. They hacked in via a Virtual Private Network (VPN), gaining access to the company’s networks and causing malicious disruption to pipeline operations. Effectively, DarkSide shut down the essential pipeline that carries 45% of the gas, diesel and jet fuel supplied to the US east coast.

      Although the renewables industry is at risk of cyber attacks, a key data transfer requirement exists between on-site RTUs and SCADA systems to extract mission-critical sensor data, however remote, to prevent and mitigate outages and disruption to energy supply.

      Some satellite networks have the advantage of not needing any terrestrial infrastructure in order to extract data from RTUs. So if wind farms, reservoirs or solar sites don’t receive reliable cellular coverage, satellite is the best option, either as primary or failover. For maximum data security, the SCADASat solution from Ground Control is a narrowband private satellite network that avoids utilizing the internet and is the optimally secure solution for remote monitoring, controlling, and surveillance of renewable energy grids.

      SCADASat enables renewable providers to cost-effectively and reliably transmit remote SCADA, telemetry and M2M data – all in a secure network. The platform is highly scalable with low operating costs compared to the new installation and maintenance of fiber connectivity. It is compatible with both IP and legacy serial devices and operates independently from terrestrial communications systems, both complementing and offering an alternative solution to terrestrial networks, ensuring transmission at all times.


      CHALLENGE 4 – Energy wastage

      The solution – RockREMOTE Rugged

      Wind farms are a good example of where the power generated could become surplus and potentially wasted. Windfarms are typically located on expansive areas of remote land or lie miles offshore and thus, make it challenging for control stations to be installed onsite.

      The nature of these remote and expansive sites presents a challenge for renewable energy providers. They must be efficiently managed and monitored to ensure maximum energy utilization and minimum energy wastage – which is otherwise costly to energy providers. Cloud-based remote monitoring solutions are therefore essential to help operators monitor multiple wind farm locations at any one time, collecting all, or exceptional data, on wind turbine speed, torque, power, wind speed, wind direction and so on.

      RockREMOTE Rugged is a reliable solution for remote IoT challenges. It securely connects remote IoT assets using IP or message-based protocols and provides diverse connectivity through Iridium Satellite or LTE networks. The device is powered by a sophisticated Linux-based operating system that offers containerized hosting for edge-computing applications.

      For renewable energy sites, this means complete visibility and control – even if assets are spread over a wide area. The RockREMOTE Rugged solution extends the reach of telemetry applications and enables real-time reporting on power generation to prevent saturation and wastage.

      CHALLENGE 5 – Costly data retrieval

      The solution – Cobham EXPLORER 540

      We know that many renewable energy sites are located in remote areas. Where cellular and fiber connectivity does already exist, this type of connectivity will likely be the most cost-effective option to retrieve backhaul data. However, The Department of Transportation put the average cost of laying new fiber at $27,000 per mile. Further to the costly installation, there’s the ongoing truck roll costs to consider with an experienced Field Engineer costing, on average, $68,132 per year (hardware lifetime is typically around 10 years). Utilizing remote satellite IoT communication and monitoring solutions mitigates this cost almost entirely as the terminals are remotely managed.

      As the world’s first BGAN M2M terminal designed to operate on both Inmarsat BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) and cellular 2G/3G/LTE networks, the Cobham Explorer 540 delivers always-available connectivity for critical monitoring and control applications where cellular and fiber are out of reach.

      The BGAN M2M service uses Inmarsat BGAN to provide a reliable, global, two-way IP data service. It is designed to connect monitoring and control applications in remote, unmanned locations, providing visibility and management of those assets. By combining BGAN M2M with cellular connectivity in the same terminal, the Explorer 540 gives users the opportunity to choose the best carrier for any location, or to switch seamlessly between cellular and satellite using lowest cost routing logic.



      Here, now and the future


      Satellite-powered communication and monitoring solutions equip renewable energy providers with multiple ways to overcome the challenges of remote device monitoring, cyber security, power storage, and combining distributed site data.

      A suite of satellite-based solutions from Ground Control enables the renewables industry to harness the efficiencies of satellite communication to advance troubleshooting and improve response times, implement predictive maintenance monitoring, automate manual tasks, and optimize energy utilization. With 60% of the world’s energy anticipated to be renewable within the next 12 years, the demand for satellite connectivity is only set to increase.

      Ground Control is very well placed to support renewables connectivity, as it’s our mission to make sure data reaches its destination by the most reliable and cost-effective means possible. Whether using cellular or satellite connectivity, Ground Control can recommend the best solutions, airtime and services.

        Register for our newsletter to get a monthly round up of the latest news in satellite, M2M and IoT. No spam, no third parties, just great content from our team of experts - and you can opt out at any time.

        Imagine you’re the manufacturer of industrial equipment — perhaps you supply power generators to war zones, or monster excavators to mining projects, or perhaps you make sensors for monitoring pipelines.

        The equipment that you produce is inherently big and complex — which means that it’ll be packed with sensors to monitor its health, performance and to detect faults/errors.

        If a sensor fails in the forest, and nobody is around, does it make a sound?

        Here’s the problem. Your equipment isn’t around the corner — you can’t just run over to check it’s ok. If it’s truly remotely deployed, it may require several days travel and a helicopter to check!

        Clearly this isn’t a sustainable or practical solution — so what about remote monitoring? It’s unlikely that you’ll be within cellular coverage, and if you are it’s likely to be patchy and unreliable.

        In this instance, the only viable option you have for remotely monitoring your equipment is via satellite. Today, there’s a multitude of satellite operators and terminals available, each with their respective pros/cons in respect of physical size, operating cost, power requirements, communication speed and bandwidth etc.

        For our hypothetical scenario, let’s assume we make monster excavators used to extract lithium from remote Australian mines. They’re super-computers on wheels and are packed with sensors, measuring things like temperature, pressure, vibration, movement and location. There’s a ready supply of power but physical space is limited. Being able to monitor this data in real-time is invaluable for things like performance and safety monitoring.

        Introducing Ground Control’s RockREMOTE

        The RockREMOTE is an Iridium Certus IoT terminal, providing both IP connectivity and IMT-based messaging from anywhere on the planet. Its IoT Gateway enables easy integration with other equipment and applications through the lingua-franca of the IoT industry — MQTT.

        How do we connect the RockREMOTE to a monster excavator?

        In our scenario, we’ve got an onboard network connecting all the sensors to a central data logger which stores the sensor readings. The sensors themselves speak to the data logger via the industry-standard CAN bus protocol as is commonly used in the automotive industry.

        The data logger is simply connected to the RockREMOTE via Ethernet cable.

        Monster excavator and RockREMOTE
        Yes that’s a child’s toy — no expense spared artist’s impression showing the system end-to-end

        Data Logger > MQTT > RockREMOTE (IoT Gateway)

        So we’ve got our readings gleaned from the onboard sensors; they’re currently stored in a simple database on our data logger. This is a proprietary system developed in-house, so we’ll need some developer-smarts to send the data to the IoT Gateway on the RockREMOTE.

        Side note: it’s at this point that everyone’s system will vary. In the event that you’re not already utilizing MQTT, some development work will be unavoidable. Fear not: due to the ubiquity of MQTT, it’s very widely supported and there’s established libraries for most platforms and programming languages.

        Our data-logger runs Linux so we have a multitude of tools at our disposal; the simplest and easiest being a basic Python script (as shown below):

        import time
        import paho.mqtt.client as mqtt

        #Connect to RockREMOTE
        client = mqtt.Client()
        client.username_pw_set("username", "password")
        client.connect("", 1883, 60)

        while True:

        data = get_data_to_send_from_data_logger() #Get data from database

        client.publish("lithium/truck01", data) #Send the sensor readings

        time.sleep(60) #Sleep for 60 seconds

        This snippet will diligently send the sensor readings to the IoT Gateway every 60 seconds. That’s it — pretty cool 😎

        What do you mean that’s it — we’ve not even mentioned Satellites?

        This is where the RockREMOTE IoT Gateway comes into its own!

        RockREMOTE x IoT Gateway

        So let’s pop the proverbial hood and let’s see what’s actually going on here.

        On the surface, IoT Gateway exposes a standard MQTT broker — nothing special or proprietary — this means any existing MQTT client/library can connect and publish messages.

        Security specialists: on this interface it utilises basic username/password authentication; so there’s no dastardly troublesome certificate authentication to worry about. No one wants to charter a helicopter to update an expired certificate — plus if the baddies have already physically compromised the monster excavator, you’ve got bigger problems to worry about!

        There’s no restriction to the message payload that you publish — you can send text or binary; anything you like — most popular for IoT applications is JSON or Protobufs. The only limitation is that the total message size must not exceed 100 Kb — more on this in a second.

        Not sure what MQTT is?

        It’s pretty straightforward. MQTT is an industry standard which describes a simple Pub-Sub protocol whereby: clients connect to a broker and PUBLISH messages — other clients connect to said broker and SUBSCRIBE to receive the messages when published — that’s pretty much it!

        To keep things organised it utilizes the concept of TOPICS, whereby a message is published to a named topic. Typically these take the form of a directory structure (e.g. /site01/sensor10/temperature) but you can use anything you like.

        It does a few other things, but that’s all you need to know for now!

        In the same way there’s no restriction to the message payloads, there’s also no restriction to the topics that you use. This is highly convenient if you’re migrating from an existing MQTT solution as there’s no need to change your topics!

        So to recap: you can use any MQTT client/library, send any message payload to any topic you like. It’s almost as if Ground Control have taken a monster excavator to any possible barriers or hurdles to using this!

        C’mon — what about the satellites?

        So we’ve PUBLISH’d our inaugural “Hello World” message to IoT Gateway — what happens next? How do I get hold of these beautiful ones and zeros?

        It’s magic. Or it may as well be, we don’t actually need to do anything more — the IoT Gateway takes care of all the heavy lifting. But since you’ve come this far — let’s dig into the wizardry…

        The RockREMOTE is an Iridium Certus 100 IoT terminal. This means that it can talk to the Iridium satellite network to send/receive data. It has truly global coverage and works anywhere on the planet at any time of the day.

        Zeroing in further, the IoT Gateway makes use of the brand new Iridium Message Transport (IMT) service. Read the deep-dive into how IMT works and how it differs from other IP Connection-based services.

        In essence, this is a message-based service for sending/receiving messages up to 100 Kb. You’re only charged for the data you successfully transmit, so you’re not charged for protocol overhead, handshaking or bloat 😎

        Sending the Message

        Anything you PUBLISH will be automatically packaged and sent to space. IoT Gateway takes care of managing the connection, message queuing, retries etc — truly fire-and-forget!


        That’s the sound of your “Hello World” message landing down to earth.

        This time instead of being in a remote Australian lithium mine; it’s in sunny Tempe, Arizona (where Iridium’s ground station resides). From here it’s whisked to Ground Control’s omnipresent platform, Cloudloop.

        Your message, still cold from its brief stint in space, is reconstituted and published to their secure cloud-based MQTT broker (not to be confused with the broker mentioned earlier that resides on the RockREMOTE).

        Again, this completely standard MQTT interface can be securely connected to with any MQTT client or library, allowing your cloud application to consume the messages published from IoT Gateway.

        Back to the monster excavator…

        Recap: we’ve used a Python script running on our data-logger to relay sensor data (via MQTT) to the IoT Gateway every 60 seconds. For the alert readers, you’ll recall this data was published to the lithium/truck01 topic. The data has gone via satellite and has now been re-published to the MQTT broker residing in Cloudloop.

        We’d now like to present the sensor data in real-time on a dashboard screen we’ve got setup in the office. For this, we’ll need to SUBSCRIBE to the relevant topics to get this information automatically pushed to it.

        We’ve got two options — use an existing IoT Dashboard (e.g. Thingsboard) or create something ourselves. We’ll take a look at how we might get the data ourselves here.

        To consume the messages from Cloudloop MQTT:

        import paho.mqtt.client as mqtt

        my_topic_name = "iot/ACCOUNT-ID/lithium/truck01"

        def on_connect_callback(client, userdata, flags, rc):

        def on_message_callback(client, userdata, msg):
        print("NEW MESSAGE: " + msg.topic +" " + str(msg.payload))

        client = mqtt.Client()


        client.on_connect = on_connect_callback
        client.on_message = on_message_callback

        client.connect("", 1883, 60)


        Side note: the message was technically published to iot/ACCOUNT-ID/lithium/truck01 — this is because it’s a multi-tenanted environment and the prefixing nicely provides account-segregation.

        In this scenario, we’ve been working with a single excavator — but there’s nothing stopping this working with multiple. You can easily see by changing the topic name (e.g. cobalt/truck32) we could support multiple sites and multiple excavators 😎

        What about sending messages to the monster excavator?

        So far, we’ve only spoken about data originating from the monster excavators (Mobile Originated in satcom parlance) — but what about sending messages to the excavator (i.e. Mobile Terminated)?

        No problem, it works in exactly the same way — just in reverse.

        Simply PUBLISH a message to Cloudloop MQTT and it will be sent via space and picked up by the IoT Gateway; the data-logger would just need to SUBSCRIBE to that particular topic to receive the message.

        Dan Ambrose - Director of Software Engineering

        Dan authored this blog post and was the internal champion for ensuring that our RockREMOTE supported the new IMT service.

        He's passionate about the possibilities IMT coupled with our IoT Gateway opens up for businesses, and always happy to exchange ideas.

        Would you like to know more?

        Whether you're an engineer and want to talk to Dan (or someone like him!), or you're interested in learning more about IMT, the IoT Gateway, or the RockREMOTE, please call or email us, or complete the form, and we'll make sure you're connected.