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Inmarsat reveals details of Fleet Xpress and FleetBroadband Xpress Featured

Global Xpress I-5 satellite Global Xpress I-5 satellite Inmarsat

At the Inmarsat partner conference in Malta last week, the satcom provider revealed the latest news on its Global Xpress (GX) project, and announced the launch of FleetBroadband Xpress, an interim product for maritime that will take advantage of GX Ka-band functionality as it becomes available.

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Speaking to Digital Ship, Peter Broadhurst, Inmarsat VP of maritime, explained that the full global Ka-band service for the maritime market delivered over the GX network would be branded as Fleet Xpress, following the launch of the second and third satellites in the constellation.

“Maritime used to call it Global Xpress, we’ve rebranded it to Fleet Xpress,”said Mr Broadhurst.

“This is a hybrid solution using the Global Xpress network as a priority, and with backup from our FleetBroadband service. So we have a truly global service providing data connectivity to maritime customers anywhere in the world.”

Mr Broadhurst also explained the launch of FleetBroadband Xpress, a product that will deliver a combination of Ka and L-band functionality similar to that planned for Fleet Xpress, but with the Ka-band connectivity initially limited to the Indian Ocean region covered by the F-1 satellite’s footprint.

“FleetBroadband Xpress will begin in the Indian Ocean region and will automatically add capacity from our Atlantic Ocean region and Pacific Ocean region as and when the satellites are available for commercial traffic,” he said.

“At the point that we have global coverage on our Global Xpress network, FleetBroadband Xpress will (reach) end of life, and there will be a transitional period to allow customers then to move from FleetBroadband Xpress to Fleet Xpress. Fleet Xpress will then become, as it always has been, our future product and service.”

For commercial customers signing up to FleetBroadband Xpress, no data limits will apply when operating under Ka-band coverage, but fair use restrictions will be in place once vessels travel outside the footprint of the F-1 satellite and switch over to L-band. Along with the reduced data speeds that come with operating at the lower frequency of L-band, FleetBroadband Xpress may have limited appeal to vessels that operate for extended periods outside the Indian Ocean region.

XpressLink, Inmarsat’s global Ku-band offering, will continue to exist in the short-term at least, providing VSAT services globally. However, once the F-2 and F-3 satellites are launched, and Fleet Xpress becomes fully global, Inmarsat hopes to transition its XpressLink customers to Fleet Xpress.

“It’s common knowledge that we intend to move our XpressLink customers to Fleet Xpress. As and when we do that, obviously there will be a defocus on the XpressLink service and there will be a migration away from XpressLink,” Mr Broadhurst continued.

“It has always been our plan to use the capacity on the Global Xpress network as and when we could. FleetBroadband Xpress is a product that has come to fruition because of the go-to-market strategy of Inmarsat, and it’s more about having everybody up and available for service when Fleet Xpress is ready and available.”

The completion of the Global Xpress network has been delayed due to issues with the Russian Proton launch vehicle that Inmarsat has contracted to transport its first three GX satellites into geostationary orbit.  

The F-2 satellite is scheduled to launch in early 2015, and full global service is expected early in the second half of 2015 with the launch of the F-3. A back-up fourth satellite in the GX constellation, due to be delivered in 2016, will be launched by US company SpaceX as and when Inmarsat decides to deploy it.

The capabilities of GX as it exists with the current single Ka-band satellite in orbit were demonstrated last week with the first live video streaming tests taking place on the network. Satcoms integrator Network Innovations reported that it had successfully completed the transmission of both SD and HD video, attaining speeds up to 4Mbps using a Cobham Explorer 5075 GX flyaway terminal (an antenna designed for land-based usage).

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