IoT Everywhere: How Satellite-Cellular Integration Enables Universal Connectivity

For some IoT products, connectivity failure is a momentary inconvenience. For others, it’s a disaster.

Imagine losing temperature data for a shipment of vaccines at a critical moment; there goes your cold chain compliance. Or think of a smart car’s accident detection and alert system. If the driver encounters a problem outside your cellular coverage area, disconnection can create life-threatening delays for responders.

Looking forward, universal connectivity will be essential for self-driving vehicles—and a whole universe of yet-to-be-imagined technology. While cellular connectivity is already strong for populated areas and large parts of North America, South America, Europe, and Asia, there are still gaps that affect global operators.

The lack of coverage is particularly impactful for the agriculture and maritime industries, in which IoT devices continually move in and out of cellular signals. But for any or all mobile IoT, universal coverage is the ultimate prize. Today, a merger of technologies puts it within reach.

The addition of satellite networks to cloud-based cellular connectivity is the key to global coverage. Here’s how satellite-cellular integration can make location-based connectivity loss a thing of the past.


Satellite Non-Terrestrial Networks in Cellular IoT

The simplest, most cost-effective way to keep your IoT deployments connected is with the help of a connectivity partner. These connectivity-as-a-service cloud providers offer access to many cellular networks at once, getting close to a global connection with one SIM and self-service fleet management tools.

However, even the most well-connected IoT connectivity provider is limited by mobile network operators (MNOs) themselves. An MNO tends to build towers where lots of people will use them. That doesn’t help in low-population regions or far out at sea. In fact, cellular networks are also called terrestrial networks, because they’re bound to land.

Contrast that technology with non-terrestrial networks, or NTNs. These satellite-based connectivity networks fill the coverage gaps left by MNOs. The trouble is, until recently, satellite connectivity required different hardware than its cellular counterpart. It was expensive and space-inefficient to offer both cellular and satellite connectivity in the same device.

The solution is a connectivity partner that offers integrated satellite NTN with traditional terrestrial networks—all through the same SIM card.


How to Add Satellite NTN to Your Connectivity Plan

First, look for a connectivity-as-a-service provider that offers seamless satellite NTN within existing cellular plans. Just know that not all your choices offer the same benefits. Choose a connectivity partner that provides the following features in its NTN-integrated service:

  • Automatic network switches. You can’t manage every device’s connection manually. Look for a SIM that automatically connects to the correct cellular or satellite network—and a self-service platform that allows you to define which networks are correct.
  • Simple tools for integration with your existing technology stack. You shouldn’t have to hire a team of developers to bring satellites into your connectivity portfolio. Choose a partner that ships ready-to-use APIs for quick, low-stress integration.
  • Compatibility with 3GPP low-power, wide area network (LPWAN) technologies. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice access to cellular technologies optimized for IoT just to incorporate your NTN. A specification like NB-IoT gives advantages like a small form factor and limited price; choose a connectivity source that bundles NB-IoT or other IoT LPWAN with satellite coverage.
  • Pay-as-you-go connectivity. Price has long been the key barrier to satellite IoT. With a pay-as-you-go model, you don’t pay for the satellite data you don’t use—and you can access satellite networks for as little as $1.00 per kilobyte.
  • A combined NTN/cellular SIM card. The other price challenge associated with satellite IoT is the module, which can easily run several thousand dollars per unit. With the right connectivity partner, you can access NTN and global cellular networks with the same SIM card.


Satellite integration is becoming increasingly more accessible for IoT developers, and the simplest way to access this technology is to find the right partner. This industry development will help fill connectivity gaps for global deployments—and might be the key to transformative new use cases for mobile IoT in general. Every IoT developer should be aware of this powerful tool in the connectivity toolkit.

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