Today Hiber announced that Inmarsat will provide satellite connectivity for its Internet of Things (IoT) services. The Hiberand low-power, low-cost network will use Inmarsat’s ELERA IoT services for connectivity, moving Hiber out of low earth orbit (LEO) satellite building and operations.
Hiber would continue to use its own proprietary protocols for “ultra-low-power” and low data usage within Inmarsat’s ELERA network as it provides IoT services and solutions to transport, energy, logistics, mining and other industries on a global basis. Inmarsat’s ELERA network uses the satellite operator’s fleet of geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) communications satellites, providing Hiber with immediate global 24×7 coverage.
“This strategic partnership with Inmarsat creates the most powerful global network for IoT available and helps Hiber to focus on rural, remote, and industrial IoT solutions, which is where the real life-changing innovation will happen,” said Roel Jansen, CEO, Hiber. “The partnership also gives Hiber immediate access to a global market, helps us accelerate our time to market, supports new industrial IoT solutions and widens access to cost-effective near real-time two-way communication on proven, reliable technology. We are excited about what we see as the start of a long-term relationship to jointly develop and commercialize services and products aimed at addressing the challenges of the Internet of Things.”
Using ELERA will enable Hiber to support “a range of new industrial IoT applications,” according to the company and provide customers with reliability, affordable connectivity around the world, especially in those areas without cellular or other wireless networks.
Announced in August, Inmarsat’s ELERA network is described by the company as a global narrowband network “Ideally suited” for IoT and global mobility customers. It uses Inmarsat’s L-band spectrum, low-cost terminals, and new spectrum management capabilities to deliver up to 1.7 Mbps to customers. Hiber’s IoT solutions, originally designed to use the company’s licensed UHF spectrum, is built around low-power devices, low-cost services, with a message size of 144 bytes.
Hiber’s choice of Inmarsat for connectivity comes in conjunction with the company relinquishing its rights to UHF spectrum last month in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The company had secured licenses in the U.S. and worldwide to operate up to 24 LEO satellites and a blank license to operate up to 10,000 ground devices but ran into difficulties in operating its latest two cubesat satellites and couldn’t find a way to finance more satellites as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
While moving to Inmarsat could be considered a drastic “Plan B” option, it also offers considerable advantages to Hiber moving forward. The company no longer must deal with the overhead and expense of building and operating small satellites and can focus its core mission of IoT service delivery. It gets near immediate global coverage and latencies of around 1 second or less, as opposed to latencies measured in minutes with a LEO cubesat constellation. Hiber also doesn’t have to deal with the overhead and expenses associated with holding a spectrum license and is seeking back most of its $5 million surety bond it posted with the FCC when it was awarded its license.
At the same time, Hiber’s service costs are likely to increase from the few dollars per month per device as the company promised in its initial launch, but its current enterprise customers, such as Shell, probably don’t have a problem with higher prices in exchange for higher availability.