The Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) found steady growth in the number of satellite services being used to deliver 5G connectivity, though asserted its research showed the non-terrestrial network (NTN) sector as a whole remains in its infancy.

It found ten operators in as many countries and territories had commercially launched 5G services using satellite by end-March, up from three markets at the same point in 2023 and eight operators at end-August 2023.

In the latest edition of a report into the 5G NTN and satellite market, the GSA noted 77 publicly announced partnerships between mobile and satellite service providers spanning 43 countries and territories.

The GSA stated the main use case for the broader 5G NTN sector is currently delivering rural coverage, which accounts for “57 per cent of all identified partnerships” involving satellite connectivity. It added 34 countries or territories are involved in some form of evaluation or had launched services.

GSA president Joe Barrett predicted an increase in the “number of operator and satellite provider partnerships” in the “coming months and years”, with many services currently in planning phases.

“The increasing need for broadband, voice and data services” along with direct-to-device technology developments “will see more and more operators expanding to cater to people in rural areas”, Barrett said.

He added interest is likely to also be fuelled by the potential to provide connectivity following natural disasters, particularly when these disrupt terrestrial networks.