ABI Research predicted the convergence of non-terrestrial networks (NTN) with the 5G sector could create a market worth $18 billion by 2031, with up to 200 million connections expected.

Victor Xu, satellite communications research analyst, highlighted increased traction from the device side as leaving the sector poised for the mainstream.

He cited moves to provide satellite-capable mobile devices by “major consumer smartphone manufacturers and chipset makers” including “Apple, Qualcomm, Motorola, MediaTek, Huawei, and ZTE” as a marker of the market’s readiness.

ABI Research also highlighted a growing number of deals between satellite service providers and mobile operators.

Xu noted the current batch of satellite-to-mobile services “will initially prioritise low data rate communications through IoT NTN”.

While services to date “have mainly focused on specialised emergency services and messaging with low data rates”, Xu predicted satellite networks will “eventually incorporate NR-NTN, a 5G-based, more advanced communication standard, in the next few years”.

Xu added the standard will “increase capacity and network capabilities, enabling more concurrent users and applications with higher data rates”.

The satellite-to-mobile marketplace was defined in the 3GPP Release-17 standard finalised in early 2022.

Satellite communications industry analyst Andrew Cavalier predicted the NTN to mobile market to grow at a CAGR of 59 per cent between 2024 and 2031, with NR expected to be a key driver when services launch from 2026 onwards.

He cited the potential to employ satellites for emergency connectivity for vehicles along with consumer services spanning messaging, voice and data communications as likely drivers of the overall market.