|Type||Public company (LSE: ISAT)|
|Key people||Andrew Sukawaty (Chairman); Rupert Pearce (CEO)|
|Revenue||US$1,337.8 million (2012)|
|Operating income||US$346.4 million (2012)|
|Net income||US$217.4 million (2012)|
Inmarsat plc (LSE: ISAT) is a British satellite telecommunications company, offering global, mobile services. It provides telephone and data services to users worldwide, via portable or mobile terminals which communicate to ground stations through eleven geostationary telecommunications satellites. Inmarsat's network provides communications services to a range of governments, aid agencies, media outlets and businesses with a need to communicate in remote regions or where there is no reliable terrestrial network. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index as of December 2011.
- 1 History
- 2 Operations
- 3 Coverage
- 4 Satellites
- 5 Country codes
- 6 Networks
- 7 New projects underway
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The company was originally founded in 1979 as the International Maritime Satellite Organization (Inmarsat), a not-for-profit international organization, set up at the behest of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a UN body, for the purpose of establishing a satellite communications network for the maritime community. It began trading in 1982. From the beginning, the acronym "Inmarsat" was used. The intent was to create a self-financing body which would improve safety of life at sea. The name was changed to "International Mobile Satellite Organization" when it began to provide services to aircraft and portable users, but the acronym "Inmarsat" was kept. When the organisation was converted into a private company in 1999, the business was split into two parts: The bulk of the organisation was converted into the commercial company, Inmarsat plc, and a small group became the regulatory body, IMSO. In 2005 Apax Partners and Permira bought shares in the company. The company was also first listed on the London Stock Exchange in that year. In March 2008 it was disclosed that U.S. hedge fund Harbinger Capital owned 28% of the company. In July 2009, Inmarsat completed the acquisition of a 19-per-cent stake in SkyWave Mobile Communications Inc., a provider of Inmarsat D+/IsatM2M network services which in turn purchased the GlobalWave business from TransCore. On 15 April 2009, Inmarsat completed the acquisition of satellite communications provider Stratos Global Corporation (Stratos)
Services include traditional voice calls, low-level data tracking systems, and high-speed Internet and other data services as well as distress and safety services. The most recent of these provides GPRS-type services at up to 492 kbit/s via the Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) IP satellite modem the size of a notebook computer. Other services provide mobile Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) services used by the media for live reporting on world events via videophone.
The price of a call via Inmarsat has now dropped to a level where they are comparable, and in many cases favorable, to international roaming costs, or hotel phone calls. Voice call charges are the same for any location in the world where the service is used. Tariffs for calls to Inmarsat country codes vary, depending on the country in which they are placed. Inmarsat primarily uses country code 870 (see below).
Newer Inmarsat services use an IP technology that features an always-on capability where the users are only charged for the amount of data they send and receive, rather than the length of time they are connected. This applies specifically to BGAN and MPDS.
The satellites are digital transponders that receive digital signals, reform the pulses, and then retransmit them to ground stations. Ground stations maintain usage and billing data and function as gateways to the public switched telephone network and the Internet.
The first (F1) and second (F2) of Inmarsat's most recent series of satellites, known as the "I4" satellites, were launched in June and November 2005. The third and final satellite (F3) was launched from the Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on the 18 August 2008. These were the largest commercial telecommunications satellites ever launched. Each satellite is equipped with a global beam, 19 regional spot beams, and over 200 narrow spot beams. Each also includes a 9-meter L-Band AstroMesh reflector.
There are three types of coverage related to each Inmarsat satellite.
- Global beam coverage
- Each satellite is equipped with a single global beam that covers up to one-third of the Earth's surface, apart from the poles. Overall, global beam coverage extends from latitudes of −82 to +82 degrees regardless of longitude.
- Regional spot beam coverage
- Each regional beam covers a fraction of the area covered by a global beam, but collectively all of the regional beams offer virtually the same coverage as the global beams. Use of regional beams allow user terminals (also called mobile earth stations) to operate with significantly smaller antennae. Regional beams were introduced with the I-3 satellites. Each I-3 satellite provides four to six spot beams; each I-4 satellite provides 19 regional beams.
- Narrow spot beam coverage
- Narrow beams are offered by the three Inmarsat-4 satellites. Narrow beams vary in size, tend to be several hundred kilometers across. The narrow beams, while much smaller than the global or regional beams, are far more numerous and hence offer the same global coverage. Narrow spot beams allow yet smaller antennas and much higher data rates. They form the backbone of Inmarsat's handheld (GSPS) and broadband services (BGAN). This coverage was introduced with the I-4 satellites. Each I-4 satellite provides around 200 narrow spot beams.
|Satellite||Coverage||Longitude||Vehicles||Launch date (GMT)||Services / notes|
|Marisat F1||Delta 2914||19 February 1976|
|Marisat F2||Delta 2914||14 October 1976||Transferred to Intelsat in 2004, decommissioned in 2008|
|Marisat F3||Delta 2914||10 June 1976|
|MARECS-1||Ariane 1||20 December 1981|
|MARECS-B||-||Ariane 1||9 September 1982||Launch failure|
|MARECS-2||Ariane 3||10 November 1984|
|Inmarsat-2 F1||Delta II 6925||30 October 1990||Decommissioned 19 April 2013|
|Inmarsat-2 F2||POR||143° east||Delta II 6925||8 March 1991||Various leases|
|Inmarsat-2 F3||Ariane 44L||16 December 1991||Decommissioned 2006|
|Inmarsat-2 F4||Ariane 44L||15 April 1992||Decommissioned 2012|
|Inmarsat-3 F1||IOR||64.5° east||Atlas IIA||3 April 1996||Existing and evolved services only|
|Inmarsat-3 F2||AOR-E||15.5° west||Proton-K/DM1||6 September 1996||Existing and evolved services only|
|Inmarsat-3 F3||POR||178° east||Atlas IIA||18 December 1996||Existing and evolved services only|
|Inmarsat-3 F4||AOR-W||54° west||Ariane 44L||3 June 1997||Existing and evolved services only|
|Inmarsat-3 F5||I-3 Europe, Middle-East, Africa||25° east||Ariane 44LP||4 February 1998||Various leases|
|Inmarsat-4 F1||I-4 Asia-Pacific||143.5° east||Atlas V 431||11 March 2005||BGAN family, SPS and lease services|
|Inmarsat-4 F2||I-4 Europe, Middle-East, Africa||25° east||Zenit-3SL||8 November 2005||BGAN family, SPS and lease services|
|Inmarsat-4 F3||I-4 Americas||98° west||Proton-M/Briz-M||18 August 2008||BGAN family and lease services|
|Inmarsat-4A F4||I4 Europe, Middle-East, Africa||25° east||Ariane 5ECA||25 July 2013||BGAN family, SPS and lease services|
- 870 SNAC (Single Network Access Code)
The 870 number is an automatic locator; you don't have to know to which satellite the destination Inmarsat terminal is logged-in. SNAC is now usable by all Inmarsat services.
Country codes phased out on 31 December 2008 were
- 871 Atlantic Ocean Region – East (AOR-E)
- 872 Pacific Ocean Region (POR)
- 873 Indian Ocean Region (IOR)
- 874 Atlantic Ocean Region – West (AOR-W)
The other four country codes corresponded to the areas that Inmarsat satellites cover (normally one satellite per area). These areas were commonly called "Ocean Regions". With the advent of SNAC on 870, the older country codes were no longer needed. They were formally phased out on 31 December 2008 but may still be routed by some regional carriers.
Inmarsat has developed a series of networks providing certain sets of services (most networks support multiple services). They are grouped into two sets, existing and evolved services, and advanced services. Existing and evolved services are offered through land earth stations which are not owned nor operated by Inmarsat, but through companies which have a commercial agreement with Inmarsat. Advanced services are provided via distribution partners but the satellite gateways are owned and operated by Inmarsat directly.
The "BGAN Family" is a set of IP-based shared-carrier services, as follows:
- BGAN: Broadband Global Area Network for use on land. BGAN benefits from the new I-4 satellites to offer a shared-channel IP packet-switched service of up to 492 kbit/s (uplink and downlink speeds may differ and depend on terminal model) and a streaming-IP service from 32 up to X-Stream data rate (services depend on terminal model). X-Stream delivers the fastest, on demand streaming data rates from a minimum of 384 kbit/s up to around 450 kbit/s (service depend on location of user and terminal model). Most terminals also offer circuit-switched Mobile ISDN services at 64 kbit/s and even low speed (4.8 kbit/s) voice etc. services. BGAN service is available globally on all I4 satellites.
- FleetBroadband (FB): A maritime service, FleetBroadband is based on BGAN technology, offering similar services and using the same infrastructure as BGAN. A range of Fleet Broadband user terminals are available, designed for fitting on ships.
- SwiftBroadband (SB): An aeronautical service, SwiftBroadband is based on BGAN technology and offers similar services. SB terminals are specifically designed for use aboard commercial, private, and military aircraft.
- BGAN M2M: Which was launched at the beginning of January 2012, will deliver a global, IP-based low-data rate service, for users needing high levels of data availability and performance in permanently unmanned environments. Ideally suited for high frequency, very low latency data reporting, BGAN M2M will prove extremely attractive for monitoring fixed assets such as pipelines and oil well heads, or backhauling electricity consumption data within a utility.
- IsatM2M: IsatM2M is a global, short burst data, store and forward service that will deliver messages of 10.5 or 25.5 bytes in the send direction, to 100 bytes in the receive direction. The service is delivered to market via two partners - SkyWave Mobile Communications and EMS. Each has their own solutions to integrate the service into customers’ infrastructure.
Global Voice Services
- IsatPhone Pro: IsatPhone Pro is Inmarsat's own-designed and manufactured robust mobile satellite phone, offering clear voice telephony. It also comes with a variety of data capabilities, including SMS, short message emailing and GPS look-up-and-send, as well as supporting a data service of up to 20kbit/s.
- IsatPhone Link: IsatPhone Link is a low-cost, fixed, global satellite phone service. It provides essential voice connectivity for those working or living in areas outside of cellular coverage and also comes with a variety of data capabilities.
- FleetPhone: Inmarsat's FleetPhone service is a fixed phone service ideal for use on smaller vessels where voice communications is the primary requirement or on vessels where additional voice lines are needed. It provides a low-cost, global satellite phone service option for those working or sailing outside of cellular coverage.
Existing and Evolved services, based on older technologies, as follows:
- Aeronautical (Classic Aero): provides voice/fax/data services for aircraft. Three levels of terminals, Aero-L (Low Gain Antenna) primarily for packet data including ACARS and ADS, Aero-H (High Gain Antenna) for medium quality voice and fax/data at up to 9600 bit/s, and Aero-I (Intermediate Gain Antenna) for low quality voice and fax/data at up to 2400 bit/s. Note, there are also aircraft rated versions of Inmarsat-C and mini-M/M4. The aircraft version of GAN is called Swift64 (below)
- Inmarsat-B: provides voice services, telex services, medium speed fax/data services at 9.6 kbit/s and high speed data services at 56, 64 or 128 kbit/s. There is also a 'leased' mode for Inmarsat-B available on the spare Inmarsat satellites.
- Inmarsat-C: effectively this is a "satellite telex" terminal with store-and-forward, polling etc. capabilities. Certain models of Inmarsat-C terminals are also approved for usage in the GMDSS system, equipped with GPS.
- Inmarsat-M: provides voice services at 4.8 kbit/s and medium speed fax/data services at 2.4 kbit/s. It paved the way towards Inmarsat-Mini-M.
- Mini-M: provides voice services at 4.8 kbit/s and medium speed fax/data services at 2.4 kbit/s. One 2.4kbit/s channel takes up 4.8kbit/s on the satellite.
- GAN (Global Area Network): provides a selection of low speed services like voice at 4.8 kbit/s, fax & data at 2.4 kbit/s, ISDN like services at 64 kbit/s (called Mobile ISDN) and shared-channel IP packet-switched data services at 64 kbit/s (called Mobile Packet Data Service MPDS, formerly Inmarsat Packet Data Service – IPDS). GAN is also known as "M4".
- Fleet: actually a family of networks that includes the Inmarsat-Fleet77, Inmarsat-Fleet55 and Inmarsat-Fleet33 members (The numbers 77, 55 and 33 come from the diameter of the antenna in centimeters). Much like GAN, it provides a selection of low speed services like voice at 4.8 kbit/s, fax/data at 2.4 kbit/s, medium speed services like fax/data at 9.6 kbit/s, ISDN like services at 64 kbit/s (called Mobile ISDN) and shared-channel IP packet-switched data services at 64 kbit/s (called Mobile Packet Data Service MPDS). However, not all these services are available with all members of the family. The latest service to be supported is Mobile ISDN at 128 kbit/s on Inmarsat-Fleet77 terminals.
- Swift 64: Similar to GAN, providing voice, low rate fax/data, 64kbit/s ISDN, and MPDS services, for private, business, and commercial aircraft. Swift 64 is often sold in a multi-channel version, to support several times 64kbit/s.
- Inmarsat D/D+/IsatM2M: Inmarsat's version of a pager, although much larger than terrestrial versions. Some units are equipped with GPS. The original Inmarsat-D terminals were one-way (to mobile) pagers. The newer Inmarsat-D+ terminals are the equivalent of a two-way pager. The main use of this technology nowadays is in tracking trucks and buoys and SCADA applications. SkyWave Mobile Communications is a provider of D/D+/IsatM2M satellite data services with its DMR and SureLinx series products. SkyWave also provides satellite tracking, monitoring and control capabilities through its GlobalWave MT series products. Competing systems such as from Skybitz only operate on the MSAT geostationary satellite over North America.
- MPDS (Mobile Packet Data Service): Previously known as IPDS, this is an IP-based data service in which several users share a 64kbit/s carrier in a manner similar to ADSL. MPDS-specific terminals are not sold; rather, this is a service which comes with most terminals that are designed for GAN, Fleet, and Swift64.
- IsatPhone: provides voice services at 4.8 kbit/s and medium speed fax/data services at 2.4 kbit/s. This service emerged from a collaboration agreement with ACeS, and is available in the EMEA and APAC satellite regions. Coverage is available in Africa, the Middle-East, Asia, and Europe, as well as in maritime areas of the EMEA and APAC coverage.
- Regional BGAN (R-BGAN): was an IP-based, shared carrier service offered on a regional basis. The service was superseded by BGAN and was withdrawn at the end of 2008.
- Inmarsat-A: was the original Inmarsat service, established in 1975 by Comsat. It initially offered analog FM voice and telex services and, optionally, high speed data services at 56 or 64 kbit/s. The service was withdrawn at the end of 2007.
- Inmarsat-E: A global maritime distress alerting service using small Emergency Position Indicating Rescue Beacons (EPIRB) that automatically relayed distress messages to maritime Rescue Coordination Centres. This service has been withdrawn in favor of other similar services offered by Cospas-Sarsat.
New projects underway
In August 2010 Inmarsat awarded Boeing a contract to build a constellation of three Inmarsat-5 satellites, as part of a US$1.2 billion worldwide wireless broadband network called Inmarsat Global Xpress. The three Inmarsat-5 (I-5) satellites will be based on Boeing's 702HP spacecraft platform. The first is scheduled for completion in 2013, with full global coverage expected by the end of 2014. The satellites will operate at Ka-band in the range of 20–30 GHz. Each Inmarsat-5 will carry a payload of 89 small Ka-band beams which combined will offer global Ka-band spot coverage. In addition each satellite will carry six fully steerable beams that can be pointed at commercial or government traffic hotspots. According to Inmarsat, Global Xpress will deliver download speeds in excess of 60Mbit/s to a 60 cm dish. As a result of Global Xpress wide coverage satellites' bandwidth of only 12Gbit/s each will be moderate compared to Ka band satellites with a narrower footprint.
There are plans to offer high-speed inflight broadband on airliners through Global Xpress.
In February 2011 Inmarsat announced that iDirect had been awarded the contract to provide both the ground segment and the 'core module' that provides the key electronics in the new GX maritime (and later for other markets) terminals.  iDirect was already established as the leading player in the maritime VSAT field and the award of this contract confirmed their dominance of this market. The proposed GX system will deliver data at rates of up to 50 Mbit/s -an order of magnitude faster than existing VSAT systems using C-band or Ku-band satellite capacity and two orders faster than the existing L-band services.
Inmarsat's foray into S-band, mobile services
On 30 June 2008 the European Parliament and the Council adopted the European’s Decision to establish a single selection and authorisation process (ESAP – European S-band Application Process) to ensure a coordinated introduction of mobile satellite services (MSS) in Europe. The selection process was launched in August 2008 and attracted four applications by prospective operators (ICO, Inmarsat, Solaris Mobile, TerreStar).
In May 2009, the European Commission selected two operators, Inmarsat Ventures and Solaris Mobile, giving these operators “the right to use the specific radio frequencies identified in the Commission's decision and the right to operate their respective mobile satellite systems". EU Member States now have to ensure that the two operators have the right to use the specific radio frequencies identified in the Commission's decision and the right to operate their respective mobile satellite systems for 18 years from the selection decision. The operators are compelled to start operations within 24 months (May 2011) from the selection decision.
Inmarsat's S-band satellite programme, called EuropaSat, will deliver mobile multimedia broadcast, mobile two-way broadband telecommunications and next-generation MSS services across all 27 member states of the European Union and as far east as Moscow and Ankara by means of a hybrid satellite/terrestrial network. It will be built by Thales Alenia Space and launched in early 2011 launched by ILS. The EuropaSat has been put on hold in late 2009. Inmarsat instead plans to seek external investors to fund the project, and ultimately to spin it off as a separate company.
Alphasat for extended L-band services
Launched on 25 July 2013, Alphasat I-XL was carried into orbit by an Ariane 5 ECA rocket from the Guiana Space Centre, Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The satellite was built by Astrium using an Alphabus platform and weighed more than six tons at launch. The new-generation Alphasat I-XL will be positioned at 25 degrees East to offer advanced mobile voice and data communications services across Europe, Africa and the Middle East using L-Band. It features a new generation digital signal processor for the payload, a 11-meter aperture AstroMesh antenna reflector, supplied by Astro Aerospace in Carpenteria, CA. Its design life is 15 years.
In addition, Alphasat will host four ESA-provided technology demonstration payloads: an advanced star tracker using active pixel technology, an optical laser terminal for geostationary to low-Earth orbit communication at high data rates, a dedicated payload for the characterization of transmission performance in the Q-V band in preparation for possible commercial exploitation of these frequencies and a radiation sensor to better characterise the environment at geostationary orbit.
- ASTRA2Connect Maritime Broadband
- International Maritime Organization
- Marine and mobile radio telephony
- Maritime safety information
- Satellite phone
- Solaris Mobile
- SkyWave Mobile Communications
- "Preliminary Results 2012". Retrieved 24 March 2013.
- Jonathan Higgins, "Satellite Newsgathering", Focal Press, 2007, page 204 ISBN 978-0-240-51973-9
- Jonathan Higgins page 205
- Jonathan Higgins page 207
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- Contract signed with Astrium to build Alphasat payload
- Packet Dynamics – U.S. Inmarsat Service Provider
- Inmarsat Satellite Repositioning
- How CNN streams video via Inmarsat
- Marisat 1, 2, 3
- MARECS A, B, B2
- Inmarsat-2 F1, 2, 3, 4
- Inmarsat-3 F1, 2, 3, 4, 5
- Inmarsat-4 F1, 2, 3
- Alphasat I-XL (Inmarsat-XL)
- Inmarsat Product Information