Ship communications and data analytics will be boosted by the first of a new generation of Ka-band satellites
Arianespace has launched Inmarsat’s next-generation Global Xpress (GX) satellite to boost maritime connectivity across Europe and the Middle East.
After a four-day delay, Inmarsat’s GX5 satellite, the first of its second-generation constellation for Global Xpress was launched into geostationary orbit on 26 November by an Ariane 5 launch vehicle from the Ariane Launch Complex 3 in Kourou, French Guiana.
This Thales Alenia Space-built satellite will augment Ka-band communications already provided to shipping through the existing GX1-GX4 network, which was the fifth Inmarsat satellite constellation.
Inmarsat provides ship connectivity through Fleet Xpress, combining GX with L-band backup from the fourth satellite constellation and Fleet Broadband service.
GX5 is the first of a new generation of GX satellites that will represent a sixth constellation. Inmarsat intends to launch another seven advanced GX payloads in the next four years for global coverage of high throughput Ka-band.
Inmarsat chief executive Rupert Pearce said investment in GX is required to ensure “thousands of GX customers remain at the cutting-edge of global connectivity technologies as their needs evolve”.
He added “This marks the first of eight launches in the coming four years that will grow our services to meet rapidly-expanding demand.”
Inmarsat Maritime president Ronald Spithout expects second-generation GX will enable ships to boost their connectivity capabilities four-fold.
Fast-growing demand for digitalised services has led to data consumption of a merchant ship reaching 270 GB per month in mid-2019, compared to 5 GB five years ago.
“As data use and demand for vessel and crew applications continues to grow we are already seeing data volumes of more than 1 terabyte [1,000 GB] per month per ship,” said Mr Spithout. “The successful launch of GX5 heralds a major step forward in meeting that demand with capacity for shipping in one of our main markets and the next step in Inmarsat’s commitment to the future of maritime connectivity.”