Inmarsat unveils handheld device

MSS operator seeks to broaden mobile satellite appeal further

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By  Published  September 30, 2006

Mobile satellite communications provider Inmarsat is set to launch its own handheld voice service, bringing it alongside companies such as Iridium, Globalstar and Thuraya.

Inmarsat's service comes out of collaboration with ACeS, an Asian satellite provider.

Inmarsat will take over operation of ACeS's service, and will roll out its offering across the world by the second half of 2007.

This will coincide with the launch of the third Inmarsat-4 satellite, which will extend coverage over the Pacific area, complementing the Atlantic and Indian Ocean coverage from the firm's current pair of satellites.

Michael Butler, chief operating officer of Inmarsat, admits the company is coming from behind in the handheld voice market, but says by leveraging its existing Inmarsat- 4 infrastructure and the current ACeS offering, it can bring an effective and profitable service to market in a relatively short space of time.

"Working with ACeS, we have been able to cut our timeto- market by around two years; ACeS has a good service and a good handset," said Butler.

“We have taken over their 14,000 active subscribers and the operation of their infrastructure, but continuing operation under the ACeS name; we will roll out the Inmarsat branded service by the end of next year, following the launch of the third Inmarsat-4 satellite.”|

The firm is planning to offer satellite calls at a price point of around US$1.00 a minute, which would make it one of the cheaper service providers.

This, combined with the compact Ericsson handset currently used by ACeS, will help Inmarsat achieve its target of 10% of the satellite voice market, according to Butler.

“By our reckoning, there are around 600,000 voice customers, generating US$350 million at wholesale rates - our aim is to grab around 60,000 of those users,” says Butler.

“We won't be varying our rates according to location - we're adopting a one-size pricing structure.”

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