9 March 2020

The tech giants are about to declare satellite war on the traditional telecoms operators

Enrique Dans

Bloomberg reports that Apple has long been working on creating a satellite network in competition with many other similar initiatives, particularly those of SpaceX or Amazon. If one thing is clear, it is that the 2020s are going to be the satellite years, further crowding the night sky and confounding astronomers. What’s more, companies that fail to join the race will soon find themselves standing on the sidelines.

Launching satellites into low orbit has become easier in recent times, allowing us to imagine business models based on satellite as a service, along with new access offers that can generate disruption in telecommunications companies. SpaceX already has some 12,000 satellites planned in three different orbits, Amazon has asked for permission to launch 3,236 more, and a wide range of companies such as Telesat LEO, SES O3B, Iridium Next, LeoSat, Samsung or OneWeb intend to compete in a crowded field that already has its own regulatory struggles to try to limit the launches of other competitors.

The idea of providing connectivity to all corners of the planet from the sky is undoubtedly a concern for the big telecommunications companies. If Apple were to decide to use its own satellite network to directly connect and geolocate its devices, it could give these companies a major scare, especially in those countries where it has a more significant market share. For Apple, it could mean not only an additional revenue source, but also a much more comprehensive and complete service for its customer, opening up any number of possibilities.

Apple’s loyal customers are likely to be tempted by the idea of direct connectivity, depriving operators of a potentially very important socio-demographic segment overnight. If we add to this the possibility of providing internet access in remote areas ignored by traditional operators because there’s not enough money to be made, and we could be talking about a game changer that will put the traditional operators in a tricky position.

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