Globalstar agrees terms with ‘global customer’ for terrestrial connectivity

TAMPA, Fla. — Globalstar has signed a term sheet with a “large global customer” to begin deploying some of its spectrum for terrestrial use “in the US and beyond,” the satellite operator said May 5. .

The mystery client is looking to use the frequencies Globalstar has in a part of the S-band called Band 53, the operator said in an earnings release.

While no further details were disclosed, Globalstar has been working with Nokia for years to develop terrestrial solutions for Band 53, including private wireless networks and systems for connecting Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

In January 2021, Globalstar said that the government agency that oversees the Seattle Seaport plan to use Band 53 for a private wireless network to support the logistics operations of cranes, trucks and elevators.

Globalstar said its latest deal for the frequencies “is an important opportunity that will take time, but the signs point to success; We will share more information when we are allowed to.”

The company is also “active in a number of international opportunities in the mining, transportation and logistics sectors,” he said, “any of which would be significant if concluded.”

Globalstar did not respond to requests for comment.

Globalstar mystery deepens

This is the second large-scale project that Globalstar has recently said is in the works with a client shrouded in secrecy.

The operator said on February 24 chose MDA and Rocket Lab to supply a set of 17 satellites to replenish its constellation after a “potential customer” agreed to finance most of the $327 million project. The deal includes an option for up to nine additional satellites at $11.4 million each.

Globalstar did not shed any light on the identity of this financial backer in its May 5 earnings announcement.

Still, B. Riley analyst Mike Crawford continues to believe Apple is the “most likely” wholesale buyer of this capability, saying the iPhone 14 launch later this year could be a potential catalyst.

There were reports last fall that the iPhone 13 lineup could come with Globalstar-enabled connectivity, but Apple ultimately made no mention of satellite services when that smartphone was introduced in September.

Mega constellation plans

It was also recently learned that Globalstar is behind ITU filings that registered plans for 3,080 satellites operating in low Earth orbit between 485 and 700 kilometers.

Spectrum applications were submitted to international regulators through the German licensing authority in December 2020.

However, it is not uncommon for companies to request several potential constellation architectures without a firm plan for them.

Globalstar’s limited capital means its expansion plans appear to be tied to its undisclosed financial backer, said Caleb Henry, a senior analyst at Quilty Analytics.

Because the constellation supporting this customer is smaller than Globalstar’s existing LEO network, Henry said “there doesn’t seem to be a significant push toward a large constellation of thousands of satellites.”

Instead, the mega-constellation unveiling could be a reprieve for a larger constellation at a future date, he added, and could also become “a valuable spectrum asset one day if others see the merit in owning it.”

Globalstar’s current business, which primarily provides low data rate voice, data and IoT connectivity services to specialty phones, faces increasing competition on multiple fronts.

In the IoT market, competition is increasing of established and new space companies looking to take advantage of falling costs for small satellites to expand their share.

In voice and data, startups Lynk and AST SpaceMobile are pointing out progress for satellite constellations that aim to provide connectivity directly to unmodified phones.

Globalstar said revenue rose 22% to $33 million for the first three months of 2022, compared to the same period last year, driven by engineering and other services revenue from its undisclosed wholesale capacity customer. .

The increase in revenue helped the company post a net loss of $21 million in the first quarter of 2022, an improvement over the net loss of $36 million in the 2021 period.

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