5G non-terrestrial network growth continues but worldwide is still in infancy, GSA data shows

50 operators in 37 countries and territories planning satellite services, with 10 operators already commercially launched

Satellites are rapidly gaining prominence in the world of cellular communication while the full extent of their potential to complement terrestrial networks as well as phone services and broadband is still unclear, according to the latest GSA report Non-Terrestrial 5G Networks and Satellite Connectivity. By the end of March 2024, GSA had identified 77 publicly announced partnerships between operators and satellite vendors across 43 countries and territories. In total, 50 operators in 37 countries and territories have planned satellite services, with nine operators in nine countries and territories currently evaluating, testing or trialling these. Now, 10 operators in 10 countries and territories have commercially launched satellite services, an increase of two operators since the previous update in August 2023.

Whilst the process of launching 5G NTN worldwide is still in its infancy, the technology is already becoming widely adopted to provide rural coverage. This remains the most popular use for satellites by far, forming 57% of all identified partnerships. GSA has recorded 34 countries and territories that are either planning, evaluating and testing or have launched satellite broadband services. Of these, Timor-Leste is the latest to have launched services, joining the UK, Mexico, Japan, Papua New Guinea and the United Arab Emirates. Five more are currently evaluating, testing or trialling them and 26 are in the planning stages.

Joe Barrett, President of Global mobile Suppliers Association, commented: “The number of operator and satellite provider partnerships will grow over the coming months and years. The rate at which partnerships launch their services will also increase. This is already evident in the continuing growth in launched broadband satellite services over the past four months, with the current majority in the planning phase. The increasing need for broadband, voice and data services and satellite-to cellphone technology will see more and more operators expanding to cater to people in rural areas, as well as in the event of natural disasters affecting terrestrial networks. As a result, GSA expects to see more countries with satellite service offerings soon.”

Full details, including a look at the 3GPP-defined satellite roadmap and frequency band use, are included in the report 5G Non-Terrestrial Networks and Satellite Connectivity (April 2024), which can be downloaded here https://gsacom.com/paper/5g-satellite-connectivity-april-2024/ (registration required). The report also includes charts on the status of satellite providers’ partnerships with mobile operators.

Data on Operator partnerships and uses detailed in the report includes:
Rural and Enterprise Broadband
–        Status of partnerships working on satellite-based rural and enterprise broadband services
–        Countries and territories with partnerships for satellite-based rural and enterprise broadband, by status
–        Partnerships working on satellite-to-cellphone technology, by status
–        Countries and territories with satellite-to-cellphone partnerships, by status
IoT and M2M
–        Countries and territories with IoT and M2M partnerships, by status
–        Partnerships working on IoT and M2M services based on satellite connectivity, by status

Full and unlimited access to the detailed data behind this report is available to all employees of GSA Member and GSA Associate organisations subscribing to the GAMBoD database. To download the snapshot report, 5G Non-Terrestrial Networks and Satellite Connectivity (April 2024), please go to: https://gsacom.com/paper/5g-satellite-connectivity-april-2024/.

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