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New Inmarsat Network to Integrate GEO, LEO Satellites and 5G

Thursday, July 29th, 2021 (11:34 am) - Score 912
Inmarsat_GEO_LEO_Satellites_Around-Earth

British satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat has today announced their future communications network, ORCHESTRA, which aims to “seamlessly integrate” their existing fleet of geosynchronous (GEO) platforms with a constellation of up to 175 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites and terrestrial 5G (mobile broadband) connectivity.

Competition in the satellite communications and broadband connectivity market is fierce and the recent pressures from the deployment of major new LEO networks, such as via SpaceX (Starlink) and OneWeb, are no doubt going to put further pressures on that. Huge constellations of LEOs, while complex to manage and expensive to maintain, can produce benefits in terms of fast latency times and better broadband speeds.

Inmarsat’s response is called ORCHESTRA, which will use a mix of their existing and new GEO satellites, future LEO satellites (of their own design) and even terrestrial 5G networks in order to serve ships at sea, aircraft, defence forces (i.e. those in remote locations), energy rigs or drilling platforms and many other sectors, albeit not domestic broadband connectivity, via a new “dynamic mesh network.”

NOTE: Dynamic mesh technology allows individual customer terminals to direct traffic to and from other customer terminals (e.g. 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).

In this setup the operator’s existing GEO satellites – both GX and L-band – will continue to provide global coverage, security and resilience. After that, terrestrial 5G adds ultra-high capacity in busy “hot spots“, such as ports, airports, and sea canals. A small constellation of LEO satellites will then layer additional high capacity and faster latency services over further high-demand areas, such as oceanic flight corridors.

Rajeev Suri, CEO of Inmarsat, said:

“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.

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 initial 5-year (2021-2026) total investment for ORCHESTRA is expected to be in the order of $100m (c.£72m), which seems like quite a small sum given what they’re planning. Initial implementation will include delivery of the terrestrial network, terminals for aviation and maritime deployment, and LEO test satellites. Initial terrestrial deployment is expected from “late 2022” and early tests of the new technologies are “progressing positively.”

Sadly, what we don’t get is any information on the technical characteristics or timeline of their future LEO spacecraft. We assume that may follow quite a bit later.

Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Randy says:

    Where are all the lefty wefties now huh?

    Take that! Another British satellite constellation! It’s bound to have GPS too, because its British Goddamnit!

    1. Lefty Wefty says:

      A “British” company where only one of the four consortium members is British.

    2. Another Lefty Wefty acording to Randy says:

      Lefty Wefty, there’s no point responding to Randy, she’s a known sad little right-wing troll, who’s enamored by Boris Johnson, OneWeb and everything she considers ‘British’.

      Whilst denounce everything and everyone who disagrees with her, as “Lefty Wefty” and Britain hating, during one of her numerous rants on this site.

  2. Pihan says:

    “The initial 5-year (2021-2026) total investment for ORCHESTRA is expected to be in the order of $100m (c.£72m)”

    There’s got to be a couple of zeros missing from that, right?

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