Five satellite operators have banded together form the Mobile Satellite Services Association (MSSA) to promote a direct-to-device (D2D) ecosystem using spectrum in the L- and S-bands already allocated and licensed for mobile satellite services (MSS).
The MSSA – revealed on Friday by satellite operators Viasat, Terrestar Solutions, Ligado Networks, Omnispace and Al Yah Satellite Communications (Yahsat) – aims to develop a global ecosystem utilizing over 100 MHz of L- and S-band spectrum that they collectively possess.
The industry association said it intends to align with 3GPP standards to extend terrestrial mobile coverage for both mobile network operator (MNO) and over-the-top (OTT) internet services using the bands. The MSSA will also look to develop a D2D ecosystem of solutions providers including terrestrial mobile and satellite operators, OEMs, infrastructure, chip vendors, and others.
The initiative is different from projects by satellite operators such as Starlink, Lynk Global and AST Spacemobile, who plan to offer D2D satellite services using the same spectrum bands used by MNOs for mobile services. This approach enables people to use their existing mobile phones to use D2D services. However, it also face several challenges such as local regulatory hurdles and interference mitigation.
The MSSA said in a statement that MSS spectrum is “well-suited for integration into a broad range of mobile devices” and has several advantages, such as enabling existing satellite networks to immediately offer NB-IoT services, an existing international regulatory framework and no interference with terrestrial networks.
The association also said using MSS spectrum enables MNOs to offer space/terrestrial integration in their entire service area without having to sacrifice terrestrial spectrum.
Mark Dankberg, chairman of MSSA, and chairman and CEO of Viasat, said that integrating satellite connectivity into consumer mobile devices is a “transformative opportunity” for the satellite industry.
“The Association will help create opportunities to scale NTN systems via open, standards-based solutions for D2D and IoT,” he said in a statement. “We believe this can be done while preserving critical MSS aviation and maritime safety services and by expanding the markets supporting diverse users through substantial improvements in speed, bandwidth, availability, interoperability and affordability.”