OQ Technology Signs Contract with ESA for Direct-to-Cell Feasibility Study


OQ Technology, a global satellite narrowband IoT connectivity operator, has signed a contract with the European Space Agency for a feasibility study of Direct-to-Cell connectivity. The contract (named as MACSAT 2.0) is funded by the Luxembourg government under LuxImpulse program that aims to foster Luxembourg and European space initiatives through the national space program.

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09/02/2024 |
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The aim of the project, which was kicked off recently, is to look into upgrading OQ current satellite 5G NB-IoT RAN NTN technology and payload designed under the project MACSAT, into a payload that is capable of connecting directly to mobile phones and offer messaging and voice services using standard unmodified phones. The current technology and payload allows OQ to connect directly to internet-of-things devices and machines from Low Earth Orbit anywhere in the world, however connecting to phones introduces challenges with respect to link budget and Doppler effects especially with wider bandwidths. The study will look into the requirements of such a system, upgrades to OQ MACSAT RAN software stack and RF front end, platform upgrades, mission analysis, antenna technology, and identifying the right suppliers for the future system. An important aspect of the study is also identifying new standard direct-to-device frequency bands compatibility with existing devices and modules.

OQ Technology has launched successfully MACSAT 1.0 satellite on 8 October 2023 aboard a Vega rocket (mission VV23) from French Guinea and the satellite has successfully passed LEOP phase and now is being handed over to OQ Luxembourg operations center for in-orbit commissioning of the NB-IoT payload. Building upon the success of MACSAT, the company is proceeding as part of its technology roadmap to prepare for the future by upgrading the services it offers using advanced 5G Direct-to-Cell technology.

The market of direct-to-cell connectivity has been heating up recently with many US companies competing to offer this new service such as SpaceX with Starlink 2.0, Lynk, and AST Mobile, and recently Iridium. Smart Phone makers are already rolling out phones that connect directly to satellites such as Apple. OQ is a front-runner European company in the field of standard cellular connectivity to LEO satellites.

“The direct to cellular market is estimated be about 1 Trillion US$ market and is growing rapidly, we believe this is the new killer app in the world of satellite communication, and as OQ Technology has been a pioneer in narrowband 5G IoT satellite connectivity when we looked into it back in 2016 and successfully demonstrated the technology in orbit, we are eyeing now the future of direct cellular connectivity to mobile phones - We are grateful to Luxembourg Space Agency and the European Space Agency for their vision and great continuous support to OQ” - Omar Qaise

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