Airbus partners with Inmarsat to deliver global mobile comms network

Airbus partners with Inmarsat to deliver global mobile comms network

Stephen Kuper

Global mobile satellite communications provider Inmarsat has announced that Airbus Defence and Space has been selected as its satellite manufacturing partner as part of a ground-breaking development of its Global Xpress (GX) network.

The partnership will provide a step-change in GX’s capabilities, capacity and agility for the benefit of existing and future Inmarsat customers, partners and investors.

Inmarsat’s GX network was first designed in 2010 and began global services in 2015. This created the world’s first and only seamless global mobile broadband network. Inmarsat has since grown GX revenues strongly and established leading positions in the emerging global maritime, aviation and government mobile satellite broadband markets, with GX revenues increasing by 85 per cent to $250.9 million in 2018. GX is the most successful network for global mobility.

Today’s announcement marks the beginning of the next phase of GX’s evolution, enhancing global mobile broadband coverage with a transformation in network capacity and service capability. This transformation, together with the unparalleled agility of the next-generation satellites, will ensure GX remains at the forefront of innovation for the benefit of customers and partners.

This contract with Airbus is for the manufacture of three next-generation GX satellites (GX7, 8 & 9), with the first scheduled to launch in H1 2023. The level of capital expenditure under this program is in line with that provided for in Inmarsat's long-term planning. As such, there is no change to its overall capex guidance on the back of the announcement.

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Rupert Pearce, chief executive of Inmarsat, said, "On its launch in 2010, Global Xpress revolutionised satellite telecommunications and, even in 2019, GX remains the world’s only truly seamless global mobile broadband network. I am delighted today to announce the next steps in GX’s development, in partnership with Airbus, which will ensure that our customers continue to benefit from GX’s ground-breaking technology and capabilities for many years to come."

This new satellite program will transform Inmarsat’s global network, providing unprecedented agility in space segment deployment, as well as an enhanced ability to adopt and integrate future technology innovation and disruption to the GX product line.

 

This network development encompasses a major enhancement to the GX ground network, which will deliver full integration of each generation of GX satellites to form a highly-secure, inter-operable, ultra-high performance network. Future GX satellites offering new capabilities can easily be added to this dynamic framework whenever and wherever demand dictates. The network will also be able to benefit from future technology innovation.

The network will be tailored automatically to the exceptionally fluid nature of customer demand in diverse global mobile broadband markets. This will maximise the efficient deployment of diverse capabilities and enable them to be mobilised instantaneously.

Airbus head of space systems Nicolas Chamussy echoed Pearce's statements, saying, "We are launching the Onesat product line for our customer Inmarsat, following the successes of the Airbus-built Inmarsat-4 spacecraft, Alphasat and the Inmarsat-6 satellites, currently under construction. This latest contract continues the long-standing innovation relationship between Airbus and Inmarsat.

"Onesat is a truly disruptive product, both from a manufacturing and operational point of view, which allows Airbus to offer our customer a market enabling solution with reduced cost and time to orbit."

The new GX technology will be compatible with existing terminals, allowing Inmarsat customers to benefit seamlessly from this and future service enhancements. Through regular upgrades by Inmarsat to the GX network capabilities and features, customers will be able to take advantage of future technology innovation.

A clear advantage of the Airbus production line approach is the accelerated satellite deployment capability. This capability, together with Inmarsat’s well-established GX customer base, will ensure that new capacity can be quickly and accurately matched to demand, leading to a better outcome for customers and a lower risk infrastructure investment program.

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