Optus and Myriota Show How 1MB of IoT Data Can Be Worth US$500

Subscribe To Download This Insight

By Jamie Moss | 3Q 2019 | IN-5608

Australian wireless carrier Optus has partnered with satellite company Myriota to extend Internet of Things (IoT) services to the remotest of areas. Myriota’s continuously-orbiting Low Earth Orbit (LEO) nanosatellites and custom signal processing algorithm make massive-scale IoT satellite connectivity achievable, while the economics of constrained resources reveal pricing models that create unprecedented value for connectivity.

Registered users can unlock up to five pieces of premium content each month.

Log in or register to unlock this Insight.


The Outback Approach


In August 2019, Australian wireless carrier Optus partnered with satellite Internet of Things (IoT) company Myriota to extend its IoT service coverage to remote areas that are inaccessible to its cellular network. Australia is a country with some unique challenges. It is a vast landmass that, for environmental and farming-related reasons, can benefit substantially from remote monitoring services, but cannot be entirely covered by terrestrial networks due to the low population density outside of its major cities. Tackling the outback and oceans of Australia is an extensive, rather than an intensive, opportunity for IoT connectivity, and therefore requires a new approach.

Optus has yet to confirm the applications that it will leverage Myriota’s satellite network for, although Myriota’s experience spans the environmental monitoring of marine conditions as well as water tank level monitoring. Satellite communication has never been cheap in comparison to cellular or fixed line. Its usage has been traditionally limited to as and where it is explicitly needed, such as onboard ships and planes. The satellite market has also suffered from acute throughput restrictions, resulting from the logistical difficulties of adding capacity to a space-based network. Launching satellites is an unavoidably Capital Expenditure (CAPEX)-heavy exercise, but Myriota exists to turn that paradigm around.

Maximal Affordability


Myriota was announced at the end of 2015, with commercial trials in early 2017 and a commercial launch in 2018. It is a space-based equivalent of terrestrial Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) radio technologies Sigfox and Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT). Myriota’s unique selling point is its signal processing algorithm, which was developed to be low cost and to support an unusually large number of concurrent connections for a satellite system. Myriota operates four satellites, with three more launches in the pipeline and a goal of establishing a constellation of 50 overall. Messages are uploaded directly to the satellites from ground-based terminals, where they are stored until the satellites are in range of Myriota’s ground stations.

Terminal devices contain “Myriota Modules,” which are small, battery-powered two-way transceivers that cost US$50 each. The modules send 20-byte messages that include a timestamp, location, and device status update. Modules have onboard storage and a microcontroller to pre-process and optimize data before transmission. Terminal devices worldwide receive four satellite passes daily, each with a nine-minute message transmission window, and a one-to-two-hour data receipt time for an enterprise customer. Transceiver activation is determined by orbital models for satellite passes and the storage of IoT data to transmit, giving a battery life that extends to years.

Myriota uses continuously-orbiting Low Earth Orbit (LEO) nanosatellites, which, with a mass of less than ten kilograms and a price of around US$1.5 million, are orders of magnitude cheaper than the US$100 million geostationary satellites used by Inmarsat. Continuous-orbiting allows a satellite system to process more signals at once, so that it can serve large networks of IoT devices. Traditionally, satellites are designed for the opposite purpose: to communicate greater amounts of data between relatively few ground-based transceivers, incorporating localized terrestrial aggregation for individual IoT terminals. But massive-scale IoT satellite systems must simplify their architecture to reduce cost and become maximally affordable.

De-Commoditizing Connectivity


Optus’ new relationship with Myriota is significant. It is recognition of the utility of its nanosatellite IoT concept by a major telecommunications company and a validation of Myriota’s years of development and testing, patent building, and constellation assembly. The relationship also shows that long-established IoT service providers like wireless carriers are not bound by any one type of network. Instead, whatever technology serves to accomplish the task becomes a valid one for them to use. IoT service providers are wedded to what they deliver and not to how they deliver it, and it is the it is the business result that matters the most; technologies are just tools to unlock the data analytics opportunity.

Myriota’s pricing is tiered, by the number of messages sent per month: from as many as 50,000 messages for US$500 to as few as 1,000 for US$15. Plans may be pooled across a customer’s devices. Pricing by event instead of megabyte (MB) describes the work that can be done in return for the fee, which is far more meaningful to enterprises. With costs as low as US$0.01 per message it also emphasizes the value that enterprises receive. But excitingly, Myriota’s pricing liberates the metric of capacity from scrutiny, de-commoditizing it to thereby realize its true potential: 50,000 20-byte messages equates to a return of US$500 per MB, a rate that would seem unimaginable to a cellular carrier.

In recent years international wireless carrier groups have been bolstering their IoT connectivity capabilities by leasing extra capacity from satellite operators. Early satellite phone market expectations were scotched during the 1990s by the speed and affordability of cellular network rollouts, but satellite has always retained the advantage of geographic coverage thanks to the vast footprint of its orbiting transceivers. Satellite has, therefore, always had a vital role to play in the most mission-critical operations, as well as for backhaul in remote regions that lack fixed line infrastructure. And now, against all apparent odds, it has a role to play in massive-scale IoT as well.


Companies Mentioned