SpaceX SWARM and Particle LTE from space

Recently SWARM announced they are discontinuing development of their VHF product. Service will continue for many years but its a dead product.

As a SpaceX subsidy they are now focusing on LTE from Starlink Satellites and are actively developing a new drop in version of the M138 Modem for use with this service.

What I want to know. Has Particle talked with SpaceX? Getting Boron compatible with this upcoming service would be a game changer for what Particle is trying to accomplish. Is the current hardware going to be compatible? Do we need a new modem? IoT anywhere would be HUGE for our applications in wildlife control and is something we could certainly pay extra for the service.

I know all this is bleeding edge just getting the discussion going and seeing what others think. It took far too long for particle to get Verizon service so lets be quicker on this one!

SWARM Newsletter

Hello!

Swarm has been planning for the future of both its VHF and Direct to Cell networks and it is a priority for us to keep customers informed on our product roadmap.

To ensure the highest performance possible for its VHF deployments now and into the future, Swarm is halting net new sales of its VHF ground hardware products. This will also enable our teams to focus on continued support for our VHF customers while we develop improved capabilities.

Swarm is continuing to support its VHF service and customers. We most recently launched on a Transporter-8 mission (June 2023), currently have a manifested launch for 2024, and continually evaluate additional mission opportunities for the VHF network.

SpaceX’s Direct to Cell network will also provide an exciting future IoT offering, which will provide higher bandwidth, lower latency connectivity to COTS IoT devices. Swarm also plans to offer a future LTE version of the M138 modem that is compatible with the Direct to Cell network — supporting the same form factor, command set, and Hive/API interfaces that customers have used with our VHF product. You can review our FAQs on these changes here.

We’re incredibly excited to continue serving VHF customer deployments and for the new IoT applications that will be made possible by the Direct to Cell network! If you’re interested in receiving updates on our future plans for the drop-in modem and the next generation of IoT connectivity, please feel free to sign up for updates here.

Thanks,
The Swarm Team

2 Likes

Hey @MargoJack, great question!

We had been evaluating SWARM intermittently (once a year we'd give it a whirl to see if the quality of service had improved) but felt like the density of satellites was not sufficient to deliver a service we could stand behind. Our expectation was that the satellite density would at some point achieve critical mass and we'd start to more seriously evaluate it.

Now the industry direction has shifted towards LTE over satellite, which is a super positive change — and perhaps means that satellite over Particle may become feasible on a shorter timeframe.

We're just starting to poke around at this, but in the meantime I'd love to invite feedback on the topic from the community. Specifically, thoughts on the following:

  1. Would you use satellite networking if it were offered? Would that still be true if it cost more and consumed more power than terrestrial LTE? What are the use cases where you would find it beneficial?
  2. For anyone who may have access to samples of modules with LTE-over-satellite — what has your experience been? Does it meet your needs? If not, where are the gaps?

We will, of course, be doing our own research — but it's always helpful to hear from others who are poking around at the bleeding edge to help inform our direction.

11 Likes

We would use it.
AquaRealTime provides early detection of water contamination in lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and coastlines. Our clients are water utilities, private water asset holders, aquaculture and governments. 90+% of the time they have cellular, but some do not.
As far as cost, yes we would pay more, because our customers would pay more - if there's no cell reception at a water asset, that's precisely where remote monitoring is the most valuable and creates good ROI because it takes a long time go there in person.
For power, I suspect the additional amount would be fine as we have a good solar panel. I'd be happy to go into details.

We use Particles in LED road signage applications. We are similar to @astroyam that we have cellular access about 90% of the time, but when we don't we are currently limited to offline systems, custom solutions or lost sales. The value is high for us to have an option that means we can always supply a system on the same platform. Some scenarios hinge on us being able to generally supply bulk quantities and we can't guarantee connectivity in those situations. We would be able to recover higher connection costs when there is no cellular from the end users.

Just as I can imagine the effort for Particle is high to add this option, the effort is high for us when we have to devise other solutions for when there is no cellular and we lose the benefits of the Particle ecosystem. It would be a great addition to the Particle platform if we could rely on it for all locations.

Thanks for revisiting the satellite connectivity market and I hope you can find a workable system in the near future for it.