Tata-owned satellite communications company Nelco has signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Omnispace, an American company that aims at combining terrestrial mobile networks with global satellite constellations.

“The strategic cooperation aims to enable and distribute 5G non-terrestrial network (NTN), direct-to-device satellite services,” said a statement on Wednesday, adding that the collaborative effort will expand the reach of 5G using satellite communication throughout India and South Asia.

Business-critical applications

Nelco provides satcom services to enterprise customers for business-critical applications across many industry segments, including Aero IFC and Maritime communication.

This strategic agreement with Omnispace will focus on enabling the use of 5G direct-to-device communications using Omnispace’s global NGSO satellite network across various market segments. The Omnispace network will deliver IoT-based solutions and a seamless mobile connectivity experience beyond the boundaries of existing mobile networks.

Pact with Telesat

Nelco already has an agreement with Canadian satellite operator Telesat, and aims to bring their low earth orbit global satellite network to India for end consumer and enterprise applications. 

As satellite technology becomes more disruptive, enterprises are showing keen interest in utilising satellite communications to provide connectivity worldwide. Utilisation of satellite technology for connectivity will prove to be advantageous especially in rural areas, where it is hard for terrestrial operators to set up connectivity using optic fiber cables. LEO satellite players can provide a variety connectivity solutions, cellular back-haul, mobile hotspots, village connectivity or even direct to device solutions — mobile connectivity

A major hurdle however, in using satellites for mobile connectivity is that normally,  mobile  handsets do not have the ability to be compatible with both terrestrial and mobile networks at the same time.

Hybrid network

Omnispace however promises consumers a hybrid network, wherein the customer’s device can be connected with the terrestrial network as well as their satellite network in areas that are outside terrestrial coverage.

“We have adopted 3GPP mobile industry standards to avoid the challenges of proprietary solutions While connected, devices operate on a globally harmonized mid band spectrum that is mobile ready,” said the company website. 

“We are excited to be working with Nelco, a proven innovator which shares our vision, to deliver for the first-time, game-changing solutions for enterprise customers in India through the power of ubiquitous, global 5G communications,” said Jay Yass, Chief Corporate Development Officer, Omnispace.

“Together with Nelco, we are working to deliver reliable mobile connectivity solutions to enhance growth and innovation across the industries and regions it serves,” Yass further said.

World’s first global 5G NTN network

This agreement with Omnispace allows Nelco to expand its services by including 5G satellite direct-to-device connectivity solutions to its portfolio of satcom services for serving existing and new customers across South Asia, using the world’s first global 5G NTN network. 

“This is truly an exciting time in technology innovation for us and our customers. We look forward to working with Omnispace, to provide our customers the power of cutting-edge 5G global connectivity solutions including satellite IoT,” said P J Nath, Managing Director and CEO, Nelco. “We believe that 5G NTN satellite network can bring transformational capability for our customers by enabling 3GPP compliant connectivity solutions across all regions & terrains.”

With this agreement, Omnispace becomes the fifth player in the LEO/ MEO space to eye the Indian market to provide satellite-based connectivity. Four players already showing interest in the Indian market include Elon Musk’s Star Link, Canadian Telesat, Bharti-backed OneWeb and Jio’s partnership with SES. Omnispace will focus on narrowband satellite applications unlike the other four, which look to provide satellite broadband solutions.