The internet of things goes extraterrestrial

As the internet of things grows to encompass many more “things,” so are the number of wireless ways to connect them. Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth Low Energy and cellular are being embedded in every manner of gadget from thermostats to cars, but industrial IOT specialist Sigfox is suggesting one more type of connection: satellites.

Sigfox is partnering with aerospace company Airbus Defense and Space, French research institute CEA-Leti and engineering firm Sysmeca on project called Mustang that aims to build a hybrid terrestrial/satellite that can be used to connect the internet of things. Sigfox is already developing low-power, low bandwidth wireless networks in several countries designed to connect sensors, industrial appliances and other gadgets to the internet. Its work with Mustang could expand the scope of that network to the entirety of globe. Devices connect to a Sigfox terrestrial transmitter where available, but beam their information up to the heavens when not.

Sigfox satellite network

These kinds of satellite machine-to-machine (M2M) networks have actually been around for some time, run by big orbital communications provides like [company]Orbcomm[/company], [company]Iridium[/company] and [company]Globalstar[/company]. But Mustang seems to have something more ambitious — or less ambitious, depending how you look at — in mind. Instead of uploading telematics data from military tanks in the desert or collecting data from buoys in the ocean, Sigfox is geared at connecting more everyday objects, from the alarm system in your home to the tracking device on your dog’s collar.

These types of networks don’t have much bandwidth: they only need to transmit at few bits per second, they consume very little power and they cost very little to operate. If Sigfox, Airbus and their research partners can optimize a satellite network for those kind of use cases, they would have something quite impressive on their hands.

Mustang’s founders said that the project has a three year timeline, in which the plan to develop the modem technology and the communications protocols necessary to make the system work. So while my dogs are connected by Bluetooth and Wi-Fi today, it may take some time before they’re beaming info into space.

Google-Dish: Perfect match or disaster in the making?

According to the WSJ, Dish Network and Google have been in talks about launching an LTE network. Google would bring cash, while Dish would bring spectrum, but neither company has the infrastructure or expertise to run a mobile carrier. Maybe that’s why Google is interested.

How Iridium took a chance on SpaceX and won

Today SpaceX is an aerospace sensation, but several years ago the prospects of the fledgling space travel startup weren’t so certain. That’s when satellite communications provider Iridium decided to place a huge bet on SpaceX, handing it the single biggest commercial launch contract in history.

AT&T & Dish fight over spectrum, but will either build a network?

Report after report points to AT&T marrying Dish Network after Ma Bell’s forced break up with T-Mobile, but given the companies’ increasing belligerence, you wouldn’t think that was the case. What we’re witnessing here is some very cynical pre-nuptial gamesmanship.

TerreStar Genus: A Satellite Phone You Can’t Afford to Love

AT&T today introduced the TerreStar Genus, a relatively thin $799 cellular smartphone that can use a satellite network for backup voice and data communications. The Genus gives a glimpse at future satellite phones: too expensive for consumers and a step behind the latest and greatest devices.

Satellite Guys To WiMAX: Why You Hate Us!

When it comes to wireless broadband, WiMAX is one technology that has some bad juju. You have two of its premier proponents in the U.S., Clearwire and Sprint, riding leaky boats in rocky financial seas. You have LTE as a potential competitor, thanks to backing from AT&T and Verizon. And now there is a new report out that says WiMAX causes interference with satellite communications transmitted in the C band frequency.

Of course one has to take the report with a pinch of salt since it has been released by Florida-based Satellite Users Interference Reduction Group (SUIRG), which has conflicts up the wazoo. They conducted tests to “measure interference levels generated by fixed WiMAX transmissions into an FSS satellite receiving station.” The tests found that the “WiMAX transmit signal could cause significant problems to a satellite digital signal well in excess of 12 km distance.”

A sharp reader points out that this is a problem with 3.5 Ghz fixed wireless/WiMAX solutions, which is different from the spectrum Sprint & Clearwire are using/planning to use. 3.5 Ghz is very popular for WiMAX in overseas markets.

Any readers who are experts in satellite communications, and want to read the report, we would love to hear from you as to what you make of this whole issue.