Broadband/Connectivity News Satellite Tech Updates

Inmarsat to launch new satellite network

The first-of-its-kind network will seamlessly integrate GEO, LEO, and terrestrial 5G into one solution.

Inmarsat plans to launch a constellation of low earth orbit spacecraft and set up 5G wireless networks. The project, called Orchestra, will create a hybrid network of the company’s existing geostationary satellite technology, land-based 5G networks, and low-earth orbit satellites.

The system will provide next-generation 5G service in high-demand areas like ports, and add speed and capacity at digital choke points as data use soars.

Speaking about the new project, Rajeev Suri, CEO of Inmarsat, said: “An Orchestra brings different instruments together, each supporting the other and playing its role in the masterpiece. We’re building Orchestra on the same concept. By combining the distinct qualities of GEO, LEO, and 5G into a single network, we will deliver a service that is far greater than the sum of its parts. Our customers will benefit from dramatically expanded high throughput services around the world. This is the future of connectivity and Inmarsat is perfectly positioned to bring it to the world with its proven technology expertise, right base of customers and partners, and financial strength.”

Orchestra will open up a host of new possibilities for industries across the world. New services include close-shore navigation for autonomous vessels, next-generation emergency safety services for maritime crews, secure and tactical private networks for governments, and direct-to-cloud connections for airlines. New segments set to benefit from Orchestra include energy rigs and drilling platforms, mid-market business aircraft, coastal vessels, smart passenger ships, and urban air mobility.

Orchestra draws together the benefits of multiple technologies to create one cohesive solution. LEO, GEO, and terrestrial networks have never been combined at scale before to create a unified connectivity service for mobility customers. The result is a ‘dynamic mesh network’ that will deliver high-performance connectivity everywhere.

Inmarsat’s existing GEO satellites – both GX and L-band – will continue to provide global coverage, high performance, security, and resilience. Terrestrial 5G adds ultra-high capacity in busy ‘hot spots’, such as ports, airports, and sea canals. A small constellation of LEO satellites will layer additional high capacity over further high-demand areas such as oceanic flight corridors. As a result, the network will offer the highest capacity for mobility users worldwide, and at ‘hot spots’.

The network will benefit from ‘dynamic mesh’ technology, which allows individual customer terminals to direct traffic to and from other customer terminals. This means that a ship within reach of a 5G ground station can receive ample capacity for its own needs as well as route capacity onwards to other vessels beyond terrestrial reach. This effectively creates a mobile web of terminals that extend the network’s reach and improve its performance and resilience.

Suri added: “Orchestra ensures Inmarsat is well-positioned to deliver long-term, profitable growth by delivering new services to existing customers, targeting near-adjacent market segments, and maintaining a strong competitive position. We have a record of adopting the right technology at the right time. We plan to focus initially on delivering the Orchestra terrestrial network, while preparing for a future LEO constellation in the range of 150-175 satellites. This is a highly cost-effective approach that leverages Inmarsat’s leading GEO satellite networks as part of Orchestra’s unique multi-layer architecture.”

The new approach means that Inmarsat can boost capacity in high-density areas such as ports and airports, ensuring customer needs continue to be met well into the future with capacity scaled directly to match their requirements. The initial five-year (2021-2026) total investment for Orchestra is expected to be in the order of $100m.