|Traded as||LSE: ISAT|
|Headquarters||London, England, UK|
|Andrew Sukawaty (Chairman); Rupert Pearce (CEO)|
|Revenue||US$1,329.0 million (2016)|
|US$447.1 million (2016)|
|US$243.4 million (2016)|
Number of employees
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 with ground stations through twelve 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 and a financial and technical sponsor of Télécoms Sans Frontières.
- 1 History
- 2 Operations
- 3 Coverage
- 4 Satellites
- 5 Country codes
- 6 Networks
- 7 New projects underway
- 8 Issues
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The present company originates from the International Maritime Satellite Organization (INMARSAT), a non-profit intergovernmental organization established in 1979 at the behest of the International Maritime Organization (IMO)—the United Nations' maritime body—and pursuant to the Convention on the International Maritime Satellite Organization, signed by 28 countries in 1976. The organisation was created to establish and operate a satellite communications network for the maritime community. In coordination with the International Civil Aviation Organization in the 1980s, the convention governing INMARSAT was amended to include improvements to aeronautical communications, notably for public safety. The member states owned varying shares of the operational business. The main offices were originally located in the Euston Tower, Euston Road, London.
In the mid-1990s, many member states were unwilling to invest in improvements to INMARSAT's network, especially owing to the competitive nature of the satellite communications industry, while many recognized the need to maintain the organization's older systems and the need for an intergovernmental organization to oversee public safety aspects of satellite communication networks. In 1998, an agreement was reached to modify INMARSAT's mission as an intergovernmental organization and separate and privatize the organization's operational business, with public safety obligations attached to the sale.
In April 1999, INMARSAT was succeeded by the International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO) as an intergovernmental regulatory body for satellite communications, while INMARSAT's operational unit was separated and became the UK-based company Inmarsat Ltd. The IMSO and Inmarsat Ltd. signed an agreement imposing public safety obligations on the new company. Inmarsat was the first international satellite organization that was privatized.
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 2009, Inmarsat completed the acquisition of satellite communications provider Stratos Global Corporation (Stratos) and acquired a 19-percent stake in SkyWave Mobile Communications Inc., a provider of Inmarsat D+/IsatM2M network services which in turn purchased the GlobalWave business from TransCore. Inmarsat won the 2010 MacRobert Award for its Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) service.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
In March 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared with 239 passengers and crew en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. After turning away from its planned path and disappearing from radar coverage, the aircraft's satellite data unit remained in contact with Inmarsat's ground station in Perth via the IOR satellite. The aircraft used Inmarsat's Classic Aero service, which does not provide explicit information about the aircraft's location. Analysis of these communications by Inmarsat and independently by other agencies determined that the aircraft flew into the southern Indian Ocean and was used to guide the search for the aircraft.
The Inmarsat head office is at Old Street Roundabout in the London Borough of Islington. Aside from its commercial services, Inmarsat provides global maritime distress and safety services (GMDSS) to ships and aircraft at no charge, as a public service.
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 to, and in many cases lower than, 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. In addition to its own satellites, Inmarsat has a collaboration agreement with ACeS regarding handheld voice services.
- 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 antennas. 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
Previous record holder for mission lifespan
|Inmarsat-2 F2||POR||143° east||Delta II 6925||8 March 1991||Decommissioned Dec 2014
World record for mission lifespan
|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||178.2° 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||24.6° 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 Middle-East, Asia||64.4° east||Zenit-3SL||8 November 2005||BGAN family, SPS and lease services
Transferred from 25° east to 63° east in mid-2015
|Inmarsat-4 F3||I-4 Americas||98° west||Proton-M/Briz-M||18 August 2008||BGAN family and lease services|
|Inmarsat-4A F4 (AlphaSat)||I-4 Europe, Middle-East, Africa||24.8° east||Ariane 5 ECA||25 July 2013||BGAN family, SPS and lease services|
|Inmarsat-5 F1||I-5 Europe, Middle East, Africa||62.6° east||Proton-M/Briz-M||8 December 2013||Ka-Band global data services, Global Xpress|
|Inmarsat-5 F2||I-5 Americas||55° west||Proton-M/Briz-M||2 February 2015||Ka-Band global data services, Global Xpress|
|Inmarsat-5 F3||I-5 Pacific, Asia, West Americas||179.6° east||Proton-M/Briz-M||28 August 2015||Ka-Band global data services, Global Xpress|
|Inmarsat-5 F4||I-5 Europe + in-orbit spare||Falcon 9 FT||15 May 2017||Ka-Band global data services, Global Xpress|
- 870 SNAC (Single Network Access Code)
The 870 number is an automatic locator; it is not necessary 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)
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 kbit/s 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.
The "BGAN M2M Family" is a set of IP-based services designed for long-term machine-to-machine management of fixed assets, as follows:
- 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 Honeywell Global Tracking. Each has their own solutions to integrate the service into customers’ infrastructure.
- IsatData Pro: IsatData Pro is a global satellite data service designed for two-way text and data communications with remote assets and has the capability to exchange large amounts of data quickly (To mobile: 10KBytes / From mobile: 64KBytes with typical delivery time at 15 sec.) This service is used in mission-critical applications and is used in everything from managing trucks, fishing vessels and oil & gas and heavy equipment, to text message remote workers and security applications. It is provided by SkyWave Mobile Communications Inc.
Global voice services
The company offers portable and fixed phone services as follows:
- 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 without 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 cellular coverage.
Existing and evolved services
They are 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 Swift 64 (see 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. Service was closed early January 2017.
- 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. Service has been closed.
- 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. Service was closed early January 2017
- 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 or MPDS, formerly Inmarsat Packet Data Service – IPDS). GAN is also known as "M4". Service was closed early in January 2017.
- 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 or MPDS - see below). 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.
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 (Inmarsat 5-F1) was launched in December 2013, entering commercial service on 1 July 2014, the second was launched in February 2015 and the third in August 2015. 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 60 Mbit/s to a 60 cm dish.
Inmarsat has announced plans to offer high-speed in-flight broadband internet on airliners using a system that integrates the use of Global Xpress and S-band service by using two antennas, the GX antenna on top of the plane for satellite backhaul over Ka band frequencies and an S band antenna underneath for backhaul from ground stations. This infrastructure for the European Aviation Network is expected to be live in 2017.
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 Global Xpress (GX) maritime terminals.
EuropaSat, 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 (now EchoStar 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 member states of the European Union and as far east as Moscow and Ankara by means of a hybrid satellite/terrestrial network. It is being built by Thales Alenia Space and is slated for launch in 2016.
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, an 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.
INMARSAT and Iridium frequency bands abut each other at 1626.5 MHz thus each satcom radio has the ability to interfere with the other. Usually, the far more powerful INMARSAT radio disrupts the Iridium radio up to 10–800 metres away.
- Mobile-satellite service
- Satellite phone
- Globalsat Group
- Iridium Communications
- Maritime safety information
- O3b Networks
- OnAir (telecommunications)
- SES Broadband for Maritime
- Sky and Space Global
- Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS)
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