Two satellites being launched in 2022 will deliver broadband communications to maritime industries in the Arctic regions
Maritime broadband communications in the Arctic will be realised with the addition of new satellites from 2022.
Shipping using the northern sea routes and vessels supporting offshore oil and gas operations and fishing in the Arctic will access faster online services, data and voice communications within three years once the satellites are launched and commissioned with Inmarsat Global Xpress (GX) payloads on board.
Inmarsat announced on 3 July that it had formed a partnership with Space Norway to operate GX payloads on these satellites.
These payloads will provide multi-beam, Ka-band, high-throughput capacity that can be adjusted depending on vessel, government and aviation demand in the region.
This will build on Inmarsat’s GX capabilities that are currently available worldwide up to around 75˚ North.
GX connectivity higher than these latitudes cannot be guaranteed because of the angle that antennas need to operate to remain in sight of Inmarsat’s geostationary satellites.
These new Arctic payloads will improve GX network performance in high latitudes as satellites will be directly overhead, providing GX antennas with much higher elevation angles to optimise throughput. This connectivity will be available to shipping through Inmarsat’s Fleet Xpress services.
“Connectivity in the Arctic region for the maritime industry is growing in importance as merchant, fishing and cruise ships transit new high-value waterways,” said Inmarsat Maritime president Ronald Spithout.
“This enhancement is fully backward compatible with our existing Fleet Xpress service and will strengthen coverage over the Arctic to provide the connectivity needed by our customers now and into the future.”
Around 7,000 vessels are connected through Fleet Xpress, which combines Ka-band of GX with reliable L-band services of Fleetbroadband.
Space Norway’s Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission (ABSM) will operate the two satellites, which will be manufactured by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, in a highly elliptical orbit.
Inmarsat is the only commercial partner to be included as part of this mission and will provide GX Arctic payloads (GX10A and GX10B) to provide coverage in latitudes above 65º North.
This announcement comes weeks after Inmarsat unveiled plans for a major expansion of GX capacity with the order of three new GX satellites (GX7, GX8 and GX9) to be built by Airbus Defence & Space.
These will build on the current GX capacity and two satellites scheduled to be launched from 2020.
Other sources of satellite communications are available in the Arctic, but these are in the radio frequencies of long-wave L-band. There are also some Ku-band beams that overlap into the northern sea routes above Russia and Canada. Vessels can also use Ka-band coverage from Telenor Satellite in the northern seas around Norway and the Kara Sea.