Maritime communications and connectivity will get a major boost over the next three years after Inmarsat confirmed its plans to expand the Global Xpress (GX) satellite constellation
London-based Inmarsat confirmed these plans on the fifth anniversary of its GX network entering service worldwide.
GX provides Ka-band satellite communications to maritime markets across the world’s oceans and seas delivering a high-speed broadband network owned and managed by a single operator, increasing bandwidth to shipping, offshore, fishing and marine markets. These services are also available to aviation, government and humanitarian users worldwide.
Inmarsat GX network currently includes five geostationary satellites, with four built by Beoing. Its GX5 satellite, built by ThalesAleniaSpace, started commercial service on 10 December 2020 over Europe and the Middle East.
“Global Xpress has had a major impact across multiple industries over the past five years, but the service has only just started to demonstrate its capabilities,” said Inmarsat chief executive Rupert Pearce.
“When our global network of partners and customers adopt GX, they are doing so as a long-term investment and we believe it is our responsibility to ensure this commitment is protected,” he said.
“To ensure we deliver additional capacity ahead of the demand curve, we are in the process of delivering against the most ambitious technology roadmap, the largest, fully funded investment strategy in our history.”
It will manufacture, launch and commission five more satellites and GX payloads on two third-party satellites.
“This will see not just a transformational increase in GX capacity but will also guarantee our partners and customers have access to a new generation of GX capabilities and ever-increasing broadband speeds,” said Mr Pearce, “which will include the world’s first dedicated broadband services for the Arctic region.”
For shipping, GX is part of Fleet Xpress services, combined with L-band FleetBroadband as a back-up service.
Both GX and L-band services will be enhanced with delivery of two Inmarsat-6 constellation satellites, GX6A and GX6B over the next two years. The first of these Airbus Defence & Space-built satellites is due to be launched by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries later in 2021. The second is planned to be launched by SpaceX in 2022.
I-6 satellites will be the most powerful and flexible mobile communication satellites ever developed by Inmarsat, with GX and L-band payloads.
These will be followed in 2022 by GX payloads on two satellites operated by Space Norway Heosat. GX10A and 10B will be placed into highly elliptical orbits ensuring continuous coverage above 65° North.
These Northrop-built payloads will expand Inmarsat’s high-speed mobile broadband into the Arctic region enhancing connectivity along the northern ocean routes being increasingly used for global trade.
Inmarsat said this multi-beam and high-throughput capacity would integrate seamlessly into the existing and planned GX network.
In 2023, Inmarsat expects to launch three more Airbus Defence & Space-built satellites - GX7, GX8 and GX9 - its first software-defined constellation for global mobile connectivity.
Each satellite will deliver double the capacity of the entire current, in-service GX network (GX1-5). They will simultaneously generate thousands of independent spot beams of different sizes, bandwidths and power that can be reconfigured and repositioned across the globe.
With these satellites, Inmarsat can respond to peaks in customer demand instantaneously and with pinpoint accuracy, and provide overlapped capacity over regional hot spots.
To support these capabilities, Inmarsat is enhancing the GX ground network to fully integrate each generation of GX satellites, with the new satellites and the ground network expected to be in commercial service by 2024.
New GX technology will be backwards compatible with existing terminals, meaning vessel owners can benefit automatically from future service enhancements without replacing hardware.
Mr Pearce said owners could take advantage of future technology innovation and disruption through regular upgrades to GX network capabilities.
“Together, with a world-leading community of technology, manufacturing and channel partners, Inmarsat offers multiple networks and an agnostic approach to technology to meet the world’s connectivity demands, both now and for the future,” he said.
Maritime communications technology will be discussed during Riviera’s series of Webinar Weeks and virtual conferences during 2021 - use this link for more details and to register for these events