LIVE FROM MWL UNWRAPPED: Paul Jacobs, CEO of Globalstar (pictured), poured cold water over the idea that satellite connectivity could one day replace terrestrial networks altogether, arguing there was an opportunity for the space industry to work in tandem with mobile operators to create a strong convergence play.

Former CEO of Qualcomm Jacobs acknowledged the growing hype around satellite connectivity, particularly in the past year, but noted Globalstar has been designing models to provide space-based services for the past two decades, when business travellers were unable to access mobile networks.

He said there was an opportunity for a combination of satellite and terrestrial, with the former serving to fill in for mobile in emergency situations or if a user went off the grid.  

However, he added the hype seems “a bit extreme when you start fearing it’s going to replace a terrestrial network altogether”.

“That I don’t see. Terrestrial networks take lots of cell sites and there’s plenty of maintenance and so forth. But in exchange you get a very good penetration into buildings and ubiquity of coverage. That’s what people have gotten used to expecting.”

He added network operators had spent a lot of money to ensure ubiquitous coverage. “Customers don’t like it when the call is not there. Satellite won’t solve a lot of those kinds of coverage gaps.”

Globalstar does, however see a big opportunity in providing IoT services from space and pushing the enterprise industrial use case.

To help with this, Jacobs pointed to private network potential using existing spectrum assets and employing a licence from XCOM Labs, a company the executive founded in 2018.

“With Globalstar’s terrestrial spectrum, we can build out quite a capable private network. Some of those private networks are certainly associated with things like logistics and transportation where the ubiquitous tracking and communications command and control that you can do from the satellite for IoT will be super interesting.”