Jaume Sanpera speaks with WIRED about Sateliot, the startup seeking to provide greater 5G coverage through a constellation of nanosatellites.
There are no limits when it comes to the sky, and Jaume Sanpera knows this very well. With over 30 years of experience in telecommunications, he has honed his expertise in the competitive satellite industry, a constantly changing and unpredictable field in which this visionary Spaniard has gradually woven networks of influence around the world.
In his extensive list of entrepreneurial endeavors, Jaume Sanpera is recognized for founding Eurona Telecom in 2001, a successful international satellite operator that is now a leader in Europe. In 2018, one year after stepping down as CEO of Eurona, he created Sateliot, a startup based in Barcelona and San Diego, which, under his leadership, has managed to expand into various markets in less than half a decade. His leadership and innovation in digital communications have secured him a place on Fortune magazine's list of the 100 most creative entrepreneurs.
But what is Sateliot, and why should we watch it closely?
Sateliot is a company that supports Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) at the local, regional, and continental levels to provide coverage in remote areas of the planet. With patented technology, this development has already connected 5G devices for the Internet of Things (IoT) in distant parts of the Earth.
Jaume Sanpera has a keen eye, knows the business very well, and lacks no ambition: he has set his sights on the population that, due to a lack of signal, cannot access mobile connectivity. Only 15% of the Earth's surface has cellular coverage.
What about people in agriculture, livestock, and industries that need to be connected to optimize their resources?" says Sanpera energetically in the WIRED Interview.
"What can we do to make connectivity universal and to benefit everyone? That was the question we set out to answer, " he recalls. It was then that, thanks to the network of contacts he had built from Eurona, he managed to meet with engineers from the European Space Agency (ESA). "It's impossible; forget about it! " some of them immediately responded upon hearing the idea. "The argument, quite rightly, had to do not only with technical issues but also with the intermediation required with international operators and regulators for each region," explains the entrepreneur.
"They will support us," Sanpera said to himself. "It was a somewhat naive stance. In this field, there are lots of interests, and each player defends their own, but in the end, when the common benefit is put on the table, the support is tremendous.
It was ultimately achieved after a lot of effort, politics, and offline meetings to explain and explain and explain," he narrates.
The company led by Sanpera is sure that the future of connectivity revolves around the Internet of Things. Their current focus is to provide coverage through the constellation of nanosatellites they have begun launching into space. On April 15th, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, owned by Elon Musk, placed Sateliot's first nanosatellite, 'The GroundBreaker,' into orbit. This marks the beginning of a structure consisting of 64 similar nanosatellites that will be launched over the next 18 months, according to Sanpera.
Sateliot has also forged strategic alliances with companies such as G+D and Telefónica, as well as space regulatory bodies like ESA. Sanpera's company enables owners of IoT devices to send and receive 5G data anywhere in the world, regardless of the type of SIM card they use; "that's the advantage provided by low Earth orbit satellites," notes the CEO.
The company has already entered commercial agreements with telecommunications companies worldwide, totaling 1.2 million customers. Their goal is to generate €1 billion in revenue by 2026. "Mexico is a country where we have a customer with over half a million lines already ordered, even though we still need to launch most of our satellites," Sanpera states.
IoT is the digital era
The Internet of Things is a concept that emerged with the new century and describes the wireless network that connects household and industrial objects and devices. However, IoT coverage still needs to be improved in areas where the mobile network lacks reach, such as rural or coastal areas. In these areas, Sateliot aims to intervene with the full potential of its nanosatellites.
But Sanpera aims to go further. His vision includes harnessing the computational advantages of the 5G network, enabling, for example, a farmer in the field to know the number of sick livestock they have or to monitor changes in the water levels of dams and wells in real time. Other examples are streamlining processes in agriculture, the conservation of natural resources, and disaster prevention and monitoring in landslide and flood-prone areas. There is a multitude of possibilities and things to connect.
Sateliot is the first startup to successfully manage its operations from a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) network, the same type used by cellular terrestrial companies to connect users to the internet. Sanpera sees regional telecommunications companies as potential partners. Sateliot's constellation helps integrate 5G satellite roaming into MNOs and MVNOs' offerings to achieve previously impossible coverage.