In a presentation at Farnborough, Inmarsat Commercial Director Chris Mclaughlin underlined how satellites would benefit aeronautical and maritime communications.
During the “International Market Opportunities in Space” mini-space conference, Director Mclaughlin brought up Inmarsat’s recent sponsorship of the Volvo Ocean Race. Inmarsat put its satellite communications systems to the task of monitoring the contestants’ progress. Journalists “embedded” with the crews were able to send HD video streams of the action back to their studios through satellite broadband link.
Mclaughlin then detailed Inmarsat’s upcoming Global Xpress aeronautical service, which would offer clients a Ka-band satellite broadband facility with a 50Mb/s downlink and a 5Mb/s uplink capability. He also noted that Inmarsat was taking a gradualist approach with Global Express (set for a 2013/2014 launch date) to avoid previous mistakes like Boeing’s Connexion.
According to Chris Mclaughlin, ‘Blackberry’ data services will be offered on British Airways aircraft through Inmarsat’s Swift service. Swift broadband voice services was possible but mainly confined to business jets because smaller aircraft were easier to outfit with such equipment.
Asked about the limit of of Inmarsat’s coverage, Chris McLaughlin explained that geostationary communications satellites could not reach the polar regions. For Inmarsat, the latitudinal limit was at 78 degrees North. McLaughlin also discussed the potential market in polar maritime routes that may open up as the icepack melts, as well as the possible need for aviation routes across the poles. Inmarsat might consider a new type of satellite/orbit combination to cover the polar regions if the commercial need to do so arose.
Asked about the Volvo Ocean Race again -this time about any effect of rain fade on Inmarsat’s L-Band communications during the race- Chris Mclaughlin said that Inmarsat’s communications were not disrupted and pointed out L-band was resistant to rain fade. Mclaughlin expected that rain fade would only have limited effects on Inmarsat Global Xpress, as he had high confidence in the capability of the system’s new Ka-band and its L-band backup.
(After his presentation, Mclaughlin told an interviewer that rain fade was an issue for Inmarsat’s rivals, who used “patchwork” Ku-band services and VSATs that often require ship antennas to be repointed with regards to where the ship was.)
Mclaughlin also had a few words about Avanti, the UK’s other mainline satellite communications firm and a potential competitor. “Lovely people,” he chuckled, “They live across the road, and we fly their satellite.” According to Mclaughling, Avanti is “an interesting data business and we know that data works.” He then impishly added that Inmarsat considers Avanti CEO David Williams and his team to be “inspired enthusiasts.”
Finally, Mclaughlin predicted that there would be more regulations on the use of personal data, navigation and tracking. He believed that public opinion was leaning towards pro-privacy. “There are no votes in going against the mainstream,” he said of politicians who keep track of public opinion.