To learn about their numerous offerings, Space in Africa had a chat with the founder and CEO of OQ Technology, Omar Qaise.
I am the founder and CEO of OQ Technology. I have a satellite communication background. I have worked for 15 years in the satellite industry in institutes and companies like the national aeronautics and space research centre in Germany (DLR), O3b and SES, the world’s largest satellite operator. Before that, I also worked at the European Space Agency (ESA). I started my career as a spacecraft engineer. Then at SES, I transitioned into business development- selling satellite services in oil and gas and logistics with markets in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. And that is where I got the idea that there’s a market need for the Internet of Things and machine to machine communication so that satellites are more affordable. And the solutions available are not adequate for narrow-band (NB-IoT) communication; most are for broadband. That is why I decided to create the company, OQ Technology, which looks to provide 5G Internet of Things and machine to machine communication through satellites beyond the cell towers and to connect 70-80% of the world without internet access through low earth orbit (LEO) constellation of nanosatellites.
With 5G, we realised that there would be a transition in the telecommunication industry because several companies would introduce different applications. Primarily, 5G services are divided into three:
OQ TECHNOLOGY is the world’s first global satellite 5G IoT operator providing uninterrupted cellular coverage for assets and machines anywhere in the planet. How have you been able to achieve this?
OQ Technology is the world’s first global satellite 5G Internet-of-Things (IoT) operator providing unrestricted cellular coverage for assets and machines anywhere in the planet- developed, developing, and non-developed countries.
Please, walk me through your background.
Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB): 5G technology will bring about faster, more uniform data rates, lower latency, and lower cost.
Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC) – This entails connecting billions to the internet, partly because there is a growing number of low-powered sensors and devices connected to the internet. An estimated 24 billion devices and machines need to be connected by 2030. And the available 4G and satellite infrastructure are just not enough for this to happen, and that is why we have decided to address this market in rural and remote areas. What we are trying to build is to bring these services through satellites to every part of the world, without the need for terrestrial cell towers. In essence, we would incorporate the cell towers into the payload of our LEO telecommunication satellites.
Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC): this requires only a few milliseconds of communication, which is essential for many large scale applications like alarms, robots, drones, smart cars, etc. However, we can not use Geosynchronous satellites for this type of communication because of the latency of about 260 milliseconds. But by using the LEO constellation of satellites at about 500km, we can effectively address the latency issues.
The three 5G services – eMBB, mMTC, and URLLC. Source: OQ Technology
What we are developing at OQ technology is focused on these two parts- mMTC and ULLRC. In addition, our innovative satellite constellation scheduled for launch within the next two years will address these challenges. Moreso, we have critically studied the standards of 5G, 4G and other global wireless technology standards issued by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a consortium of mobile operators and vendors worldwide. A technology came out in 2017 called the Narrow-Band Internet of Things (NB- IoT) that addressed the communication of low-powered devices and mobile networks. We examined the solution and looked at how we can incorporate such solutions on a satellite because we would still like to provide coverage for users who would frequently move from urban to rural areas. We looked at the technical challenges of addressing communication over an LEO satellite as cellulars because the cellular waveform is a highly scalable waveform with an effective spectrum and can address millions of users.
However, the challenge with cellular towers is that cellular waveforms fail when the user is moving at high speeds; 300 Km/h (fast train) is the highest possible speed in LTE (Long-Term Evolution). Beyond that, there will be a noticeable offset in the signal’s radio frequency, making it hard for the sender and the receiver to synchronise. In other words, the time delay is minimal between the sender and receiver since waves travel at light speed. On the other hand, the LEO satellites are around 500 km — 600 Km away in the sky, and the time delay of the signal between the sender and receiver is too long for the standard cellular system to synchronise and work. How OQ enables a system to connect existing terrestrial devices to both satellite and cellular networks. Source: OQ Technology
These are some of the challenges that we hope to solve, and we have published patents in Europe and the United States of America on how to make NB-IoT work via satellites without changing the wireless waveform and standard or modifying the existing silicon of the chips and by using mobile compatible accessible frequencies. Then we implemented the payloads and software that address these problems in our satellite, TIGER-1. Finally, we tested the satellite in orbit, and it was successful. Also, we launched our first constellation satellite two weeks ago, the TIGER- 2 (6U nanosatellite), which will provide innovative solutions to our customers.
The modem will host the OQ Technology proprietary NB-IoT software stack (direct-to-satellite), and our customers can access our low earth orbit satellite 5G IoT service using the modem. The IoT modem represents the first available 5G IoT non-terrestrial networks (NTN) modem discussed by 3GPP in Release 17. OQ’s credit card-sized satellite 5G IoT modem. Source: OQ Technology
The satellite-cellular IoT modem works as a cell tower, with an innovative software-defined radio payload that we programmed via the Evolved Node B (eNodeB) layer. It covers a wideband range of S-band on both uplink and downlink and has many other unique capabilities. Tiger 2 Assembly. Source: OQ Technology
Would you mind explaining how your dual-mode satellite-cellular IoT modem and tracker work?