Theo Van Zyl, Head of Wireless at Vox unpacks the importance of investing into high-speed, high-availability critical connectivity for industrial, military and emergency services sectors.

The LEO satellite market, according to Mordor Intelligence, is estimated at $157.46 billion as of 2023 with an anticipated increase to $284.39 billion by 2029 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.35%. The demand for LEO satellites is being driven by the increased demand for high-speed, secure, low-latency connectivity capable of handling significant data transfer volumes, particularly by the mining, logistics, manufacturing, emergency services and military sectors. As LEO satellites are still in an early adoption phase, it is anticipated that the terminal and data costs will come down as adoption grows over time complementing terrestrial services.

These satellites, often called a constellation, sit approximately 500 to 1,200km from the Earth’s orbit offering a latency of less than 100 milliseconds with a throughput of 250Mbps download and 20Mbps upload. Higher speeds can be obtained with specialised terminals designed to suit a specific requirement. These satellite constellations provide higher data throughput than the traditional GEO satellites and their proximity to Earth allows them to function optimally regardless of geographic conditions, delivering smooth global coverage to remote and geographically challenging areas. The latency and bandwidth delivered by LEO are rarely compromised by deserts, snow, mountains or remote conditions which makes it an ideal solution for the mining and logistics sectors.

When it comes to shipping, for example, LEO allows for vessels in the deep sea to communicate clearly with land, allowing for rapid response times and visibility into shipping status and location. In the mining sector, the rapid rise of automation and the Internet of Things means that facilities are highly reliant on connectivity to ensure systems remain online and safety paramount. Connectivity is also critical across facilities, both in remote and urban areas, to ensure cameras and other automated solutions remain connected to control rooms for security and worker safety.

Automation is particularly important. This is a growing area of reliance for many companies wanting to minimise downtime and improve productivity, yet its efficiency rests firmly in the hands of the connectivity solutions implemented by the company. This, along with IoT, is a technology reshaping how the industry operates so redundancy, accessibility and speed are key, as well as the ability for any communication system to handle demanding data needs.

Organisations within these sectors rely on connectivity to ensure operations run smoothly, productivity remains on track, and that workers and systems co-exist within an ecosystem that operates optimally. This is particularly relevant when it comes to worker safety as more companies are investing in smart devices and wearables to provide real-time visibility into events and situations. Worker tracking and real-time alerts are invaluable when it comes to injury prevention while sensors and data allow for teams to proactively maintain equipment based on predictive data and intelligence that mitigates the risks of downtime or system failure.

All of these capabilities rely heavily on connectivity and redundancy – which is another added benefit of a LEO constellation. Packages built to deliver high uptime and redundancy prioritise critical business applications and are well suited to organisations that have critical communication requirements. The value of LEO is that the constellations are designed to provide continuity and are a safeguard that ensures the business remains connected at all times. This is not only relevant within industrial sectors but for organisations reliant on cloud and communications to remain in business, and provide their services.

Enter the value of LEO for the military, special forces and emergency services. LEO remains active and connected in the event of a disaster which allows for improved deployment of personnel and situation management. Command centres can use the technology to rapidly respond to emergency situations without losing critical communication links with people on the ground. Emergency command centre vehicles with installed flat panel antennas can be deployed anywhere in time of a disaster and the command centre will have good quality communications to manage a situation effectively. It also has applications for clinics and healthcare services beyond just emergency first responders – potentially LEO can enable healthcare to remote and rural areas, providing access to medical care that traditionally people in these regions have been unable to access.

LEO is proving a reliable and resilient connectivity alternative to traditional solutions as it ensures that sectors with high demands are able to remain online, agile and connected despite complex operating conditions. From mobile health clinics to automated industrial plants and mining outposts, LEO provides what these organisations need.