First Inmarsat Global Xpress Satellite Launched

On Sunday Inmarsat successfully launched its first Global Xpress (GX) satellite (Inmarsat-5 F1) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Inmarsat-5 F1 is part of a $1.6 billion investment by Inmarsat into the next generation of global mobile broadband communications. After the remaining two satellites in the Global Xpress constellation are launched next year, the system will offer seamless global Ka-band coverage and provide consistent data rates up to 50 Mbps to mobile or fixed terminals.

“The successful launch of this first Inmarsat-5 satellite is a major landmark on our journey to deliver the world’s first globally available, high speed mobile broadband service,” said Rupert Pearce, Inmarsat CEO, said. “We are on schedule to achieve full global coverage by the end of 2014. The Inmarsat-5 generation is, by some distance, the fastest satellite development programme in our history. This is an extraordinary achievement and I would like to pay tribute to the skill and expertise of Inmarsat’s engineering teams and all our employees involved in the design, development, manufacturing, testing and launch. It is their dedication, alongside the outstanding support we have received from our manufacturing and launch partners--Boeing and ILS--which has helped deliver such a successful outcome.”

Inmarsat's BGAN service was widely used by news gathering organizations in remote locations, but was very expensive and data rates were limited to 492 kbps or less. The new Global Xpress service will offer much higher date rates (up to 50 Mbps) using a combination of fixed narrow spot beams to deliver higher speeds to more compact terminals and steerable beams that can direct additional capacity in real time to where it's needed.

I found some more information on Global Xpress, including a coverage map, at Ground Control's website. Ground Control provides global satellite Internet service and will be selling Global Xpress terminals and service.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.