Luxemburg-based OQ Technology had a successful launch of its first low earth orbit (LEO) satellite Wednesday, as the company targets narrow band IoT connectivity for verticals, and could potentially augment private cellular networks.
OQ is one of several LEO satellite ventures, but unlike Elon Musk’s Starlink or Telesat’s Lightspeed, to name a couple, it isn’t looking to deliver consumer broadband in rural areas. Instead the company, formed at the end of 2016, has its sights set on vertical industries like oil and gas, maritime, logistics, transport and drones, to support IoT – eventually for Machine-to-Machine communication (M2M) and Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC).
It’s targeting regions such as Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Americas, in areas where infrastructure is lacking.
Omar Qaise, founder and CEO of OQ, told Fierce that it wants to launch up to 70 satellites for service over the next two years to address real-time global connectivity with URLLC and M2M, but initial commercial service for “latency-tolerant” low-power devices can start as early as the fourth quarter.
With previous roles at satellite company SES and the European Space Agency (ESA), Qaise had noticed there were market gaps not currently filled by satellite communication, particularly for low-power, low-cost, small messaging IoT devices. OQ recently won its fourth contract with ESA, following a contract worth EUR 2 million in March. Another nanosatellite launch, dubbed MACSAT, is planned with funding from the Luxembourg Government through an ESA contract in the Luxembourg National Space program.
Of satellite broadband ventures, many have run into funding issues and Qaise acknowledged that in this type of business it’s important to keep costs low and start service as early as possible to expand the network.
The company has been awarded around $7 million in funding from government and institutional contracts to get to this point. In addition to government contracts, OQ co-founder, Mohammed Al Muhairi, comes from the oil and gas industry in the United Arab Emirates and self-invested in the company. With the first satellite launch, OQ is starting its fundraising campaign and aims to soon start generating some level of revenue to continue going forward.