Only a few years ago, global space-based broadband and 5G communications was essentially just getting off the launch pad, but in the subsequent years, satellite communications (SatCom) systems have undergone an evolution.

ABI Research reports that the industry’s shift to commercial space, also known as “new space”, is helping technology move from niche applications to mainstream use, driving a SatCom terminals market that will reach US$238bn by 2030.

The data comes from ABI’s Satellite communication terminals & CPE shipments: BGAN & VSAT and Satellite communication terminals & CPE shipments: NTN market data reports, which suggest that new space has allowed SatCom access to reach an all-time high in 2023, extending its presence from the battlefields of Ukraine, the archipelagos of Southeast Asia, and the Arctic poles.

While it stresses that while connectivity can now be achieved anywhere on Earth, a connection to a satellite network requires vital connectivity equipment on the ground: user terminals.

These terminals come in the form of traditional tiny aperture terminals (VSAT), Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) terminals, satellite phones (Satphones), and, recently, 5G mobile devices following the 3GPP standard.

In addition, ABI said that increased industry launch capacity has laid the groundwork for SatCom applications to surge, ushering in a new era of lower-cost satellites and ground equipment.

“Thanks to the rapid deployment of non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) networks, like StarlinkEutelsat OneWeb, and soon Amazon’s Kuiper, innovation in the satellite ground segment is quickly advancing,” said Andrew Cavalier, satellite communications senior analyst at ABI Research.

“In the area of SatCom, Satellite Internet has been experiencing a surge in popularity, and it is fast becoming a valuable technology in bridging the connectivity gap.”

ABI predicts that companies such as Starlink and Amazon Kuiper will be the frontrunners in the satellite broadband marketplace with new low-cost, flat-panel terminals.

“We anticipate the low entry cost of Amazon and Starlink terminals will attract new and existing customers to Satellite Internet,” Cavalier added. “As both networks will be operational by 2030, we expect annual shipments of low-cost flat panel VSAT terminals to reach up to two million annually, representing a 2022-2030 compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.6%.”

ABI Research also anticipates that satellite manufacturers and operators will take advantage of the forthcoming new 3GPP standards to drive equipment sales.

“SatCom features in consumer smartphones, like the Apple iPhone 14/15, Huawei Mate 50/60 Pro’s, and  ZTE Axon 50s, are sparking a mobile coverage revolution,” said Victor Xu, satellite communications research analyst at ABI Research.

“Though the technology is still in its early stages, this tech promises the potential of major leaps in bridging coverage gaps and revolutionising mobile access for rural communities, travellers, and emergency responders.

“Though challenges such as infrastructure development, regulation and standardisation, and battery drain remain, the future does look bright for SatCom-powered mobile devices and that exciting times are ahead as we connect to the sky from our pockets.” 

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