PARIS — London-based mobile satellite services operator Inmarsat says U.S. military forces will spend up to eight weeks this spring testing the company’s first Global Xpress high-speed broadband satellite in the Indian Ocean region ahead of entry into service in July.
“They are going to kick the tires, stress the system and verify it fits well within their concept of operations,” says Rebecca Cowen-Hirsch, Inmarsat senior vice president of government policy and strategy. She added that the multi-service testing will involve land and airborne platforms, as well as maritime use.
The trials come in advance of what Inmarsat hopes will be a major U.S. government commitment to Global Xpress once the three-satellite all-Ka-band network enters full operational service next year. For government business in the U.S., Inmarsat has a take-or-pay agreement with Global Xpress satellite manufacturerSpace and Intelligence Systems of El Segundo, Calif., which has created a services entity to resell Global Xpress and Inmarsat’s existing L-band network products.
“In the U.S., the government is very interested in the Global Xpress commercial capability, because it is adjacent to the military Ka-band, and many are looking at the tunability between the two to allow the greatest operational flexibility,” Cowen-Hirsch says, explaining that the satellites will offer switchable military and civil Ka-band capacity with up to 50 Mbps of throughput to mobile networks.
Andy Start, president of Inmarsat’s global government business, said demonstrations of the new Global Xpress capability for the so-called “five-eyes” nations—which include Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in addition to the U.S.—are planned for spring as well.
In March, Inmarsat extended a reseller agreement withDefense and Space for leasing military Ka-band spotbeams in Europe. Inmarsat also named Airbus Defense and Space a Global Xpress reseller for enterprise business in Europe, where the company will offer broadband service to a range of market sectors that include non-governmental and humanitarian aid organizations, oil and gas, mining and media. The two agreements build on Inmarsat’s strategic distribution partnership with Airbus, announced in December, that covers vertical market segments in the maritime sector.
Start said satellite services provider Telespazio has also been named a reseller for the Global Xpress broadband network for government and enterprise markets.
In a March 13 announcement, the company said Telespazio will target energy, media and corporate customers in regions where the Rome-based services provider has an established presence, including Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.
Telespazio, a distribution partner for Inmarsat’s existing L-band service network and operator of Inmarsat’s L-band and Global Xpress satellite access station in Fucino, Italy, will also offer high-speed Ka-band broadband products to government customers in Europe.
Telespazio’s parent companies,S.A. and SpA, have a sizable portfolio of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance products that could make use of the high-bandwidth mobile communications service Global Xpress will offer, Start said.
In the meantime, work on the remaining Global Xpress satellites is on track at Boeing, with launches expected on International Launch Services (ILS) Proton M/Briz M rockets by the end of the year and full global service operations to start in 2015.
ILS is facing a crowded Proton launch manifest of at least 10 launches in 2014, including four or five commercial ILS missions that must fly in addition to Russian federal government launches.