5G NTN market to reach $8.8 bn: TrendForce

The size of the global 5G Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) market is expected to jump from $4.9 billion to $8.8 billion between 2023 and 2026 — a CAGR of 7 percent, TrendForce predicts.
Non-Terrestrial Networks forecastNTN technology uses uplink and downlink transmissions from low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to enable two-way data transmission for end-users in remote areas, which compensates for the inadequate coverage of 5G infrastructure in these parts.

Chip makers — Qualcomm, MediaTek and Samsung Electronics — have started working with smartphone makers to develop products that possess enhanced satellite communication capabilities, with the aim of increasing their overall market share.

Qualcomm has partnered with OPPO, Xiaomi, and Vivo to integrate Snapdragon satellite-based communication chips into mobile devices.

MediaTek is working with UK smartphone maker, Bullitt Group, to incorporate two-way satellite communication chips into their smartphones.

Samsung Electronics has finished data testing for a bi-directional satellite link and plans to integrate satellite communication chips into their own mobile devices, creating a satellite ecosystem.

There are a number of challenges that 5G NTN will have to overcome: First, Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) and NTN technology have undergone parallel development, but the cost competitiveness of 5G NTN may face a bottleneck in the short term as it’s still in the early stages of development.

High tariff rates will discourage consumers from buying 5G satellite phones even as their penetration rate grows. As a result, the advantages of 5G NTN will not be apparent for now. Business users in remote areas are unlike to adopt the vertical application of 5G NTN technology until such technology matures and costs begin to fall.

TrendForce indicates that the rapid development of NTN technology has been fueled by a significant increase in the number of LEO satellites.

SpaceX, the largest LEO satellite operator by far in the world, has launched 4,002 satellites as of March 2023, accounting for 84 percent of global launches.

Trailing behind SpaceX is OneWeb with 582 satellites and Telesat with 80 satellite launches.

Smaller satellite operators, such as Iridium, Globalstar, and Inmarsat, have launched a combined total of 104 satellites. LEO satellites are expected to achieve global coverage by 2026, prompting chip makers like MediaTek and Samsung to develop IoT NTN solutions.

Furthermore, they have begun exploring the application of satellite communication in IoT scenarios. The popularization of satellite communication and the development of IoT applications will be key factors in the commercialization of 5G NTN technology.