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Inmarsat-3 satellite
Inmarsat plc ( ) is a satellite telecommunications company, offering global, mobile services. Based in Englandmarker, it provides telephony and data services to users worldwide, via portable or mobile terminals which communicate to ground stations through twelve geosynchronous telecommunications satellites. Inmarsat's network provides reliable 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 100 Index from September 2008.

History

The company was originally founded in 1979 as the International Maritime Satellite Organization (Inmarsat), a not-for-profit international organisation, set up at the behest of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations 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.

Operations

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, 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 18th 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.

In addition to its own satellites, Inmarsat has a collaboration agreement with ACeS regarding handheld voice services.

Coverage

Inmarsat Global HQ at 99 City Road, London.
(January 2006)
There are 3 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. In general, global beam coverage extends from latitudes of −82 to +82 degrees regardless of longitude.


Wide spot beam coverage
It relates to the overlap of the wide spot beams (a set of narrower beams creating a coverage pattern). Wide spot beam coverage is optimised for covering most areas of interest to Inmarsat's customers and is thus somewhat limited in comparison to global beam coverage. This coverage was introduced with the I-3 satellites. Each I-3 satellite provides four to six wide spot beams; each I-4 satellite provides 19 wide beams (also called regional beams).


Narrow spot beam coverage
It relates to the overlap of the narrow spot beams (a set of very narrow beams creating a coverage pattern). Narrow spot beam coverage is designed to form the backbone of Inmarsat's broadband services, including the Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN). This coverage was introduced with the I-4 satellites. Each I-4 satellite provides around 200 narrow spot beams.


Satellites

Satellite Coverage Launch Services / Notes
Longitude Vehicles Date (GMT)
Inmarsat-4 satellites
I-4 Asia-Pacific 143.5° east Atlas V (431) BGAN family, SPS, and lease services.
Inmarsat-4 F2 I-4 Europe, Middle-East, Africa 25° east 8 Nov 2005 BGAN family, SPS, and lease services
Inmarsat-4 F3 I-4 Americas 98° west Proton-M/Briz-M 18 Aug 2008 BGAN family and lease services
Inmarsat-3 satellites
Inmarsat-3 F1 IOR 64° east Atlas IIA 3 April 1996 Existing and evolved services only.
Inmarsat-3 F2 AOR-E 15.5° west Proton-K D-1-E 6 Sep 1996 Existing and evolved services only.
Inmarsat-3 F3 POR 178° east Atlas IIA 18 Dec 1996 Existing and evolved services only.
Inmarsat-3 F4 AOR-W 53° west Ariane 44L (V97) 3 Jun 1997 Existing and evolved services only.
Inmarsat-3 F5 I-3 Europe, Middle-East, Africa 25° east Ariane 44LP (V105) 4 Feb 1998 Various leases.
Inmarsat-2 satellites (These satellites are primarily used for leases.)
Inmarsat-2 F1 PAC-C 142° west Delta II (6925) 30 Oct 1990 expected operational life 2010
Inmarsat-2 F2 AMER 98° west Delta II (6925) 8 Mar 1991 expected operational life 2010. Spare.
Inmarsat-2 F3 Ariane 44L 16 Dec 1991 decommissioned 2006
Inmarsat-2 F4 IND-E 109° east Proton-K 15 April 1992 expected operational life 2012


Country codes

The permanent telephone country code for calling Inmarsat destinations is:
  • 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 December 31, 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 correspond to the areas that Inmarsat satellites cover (normally one satellite per area). These areas are commonly called "Ocean Regions". With the advent of SNAC on 870, the other country codes were no longer needed. They were formally phased out on 31 December 2008 but may still be routed by some regional carriers.

Networks

Inmarsat satellite cover
Inmarsat has gradually developed a series of networks providing certain sets of services (most networks support multiple services). They are grouped into two sets, 1) existing and evolved services, and 2) IP-based 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. IP-based 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 (BGAN) 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.


  • Fleet Broadband (FB): A maritime service, Fleet Broadband 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.


  • Swift Broadband (SB): An aeronautical service, Swift Broadband is based on BGAN technology and offers similar services. SB terminals are specifically designed for use aboard commercial, private, and military aircraft.


Services based on older technologies, termed "Existing and Evolved", 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. Uses Inmarsat's zonal ray technology.


  • 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. 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, 64kb/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 64kb/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 64kb/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.


Handheld Voice Services

  • 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.


Withdrawn Services

  • 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.


Mobile Satellite Services

On June 30, 2008 the European Parliamentmarker 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 Commissionmarker 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.

Planned for launch in 2012, Alphasat I-XL will be carried by an Ariane 5 ECA in from the Guiana Space Centremarker, Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The satellite will be built by Astrium using an Alphabus platform, and will weigh 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 will feature a new generation digital signal processor for the payload, a 12-meter aperture antenna reflector. Its design life is 15 years.In addition, Alphasat will embark three ESAmarker-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 and a dedicated payload for the characterization of transmission performance in the Q-V band in preparation for possible commercial exploitation of these frequencies.

See also



References

  1. Jonathan Higgins, "Satellite Newsgathering", Focal Press, 2007, page 204 ISBN 978-0240519739
  2. Jonathan Higgins page 205
  3. Jonathan Higgins page 207
  4. Dollars & Sense
  5. Private equity orbits Inmarsat
  6. http://www.ottawabusinessjournal.com/294852651138672.php SkyWave and partners wrap up three-part deal]
  7. GMDSS weather
  8. Inmarsat: BGAN terminals
  9. Transforming satellite newsgathering
  10. Inmarsat: one world, one number
  11. BGAN provides "eyes and ears" for oil rigs
  12. Successful launch for third Inmarsat-4 satellite
  13. Inmarsat and ACeS announce low cost hand held and fixed voice services
  14. How the Inmarsat satellite system works
  15. All go for giant comms satellite
  16. Inmarsat services
  17. Inmarsat: our services at a glance
  18. [http://www.financialpost.com/scripts/story.html?id=e2efbc8e-46a9-4ebb-a65d-913bc006752f&k=49645 Private Financing Gets Lift}
  19. [1]
  20. [2]
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  24. [6]], [7], [8]
  25. [9], [10]


External links




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