Inmarsat still on track

Satellite telecommunications firm Inmarsat is still on track with its plans to provide a broadband global area network (BGAN) service, one of its senior executives told IT Weekly.

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By  Chris Whyatt Published  October 9, 2005

Satellite telecommunications firm Inmarsat is still on track with its plans to provide a broadband global area network (BGAN) service, one of its senior executives told IT Weekly. The firm claims it will produce the first facility in the world to provide both voice and broadband data connectivity through a single device. At Gitex last month, the mobile satellite communications vendor reassured customers that the second of its satellites, providing coverage for the Americas, would be launched as originally scheduled in November. The first BGAN satellite was shot into space above the Indian Ocean in March this year and its range covers Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific regions. By the time both are operational, the company said 85% of the earth’s land mass will be covered. BGAN is the long-awaited upgrade from R-BGAN (R is for regional), which served over the Indian Ocean for three years as a transitional, interim service. “Users can set up a broadband mobile office in minutes anywhere on the planet. All they need is just a clear view of the sky,” said Samer Halawi, MEA regional director for Inmarsat. “But of course you can be sitting inside, where maybe it’s cool and air-conditioned, and place just the device outside. Bluetooth is also an option,” he added. In its fourth generation of lightweight satellites terminals — Inmarsat-4 — the company has enhanced its devices to work in conjunction with the global service, and it is there that it claims to have a world’s first. Each device allows user to make a voice call, send a fax, or connect to the internet at speeds of up to 492Kbits/sec. In light of its global expansion, Halawi explained to IT Weekly the Middle East’s continued importance. “It’s a crucial region to us. That’s witnessed by the fact that we are offering this service here before we offer it to America, for example,” he said. “On the R-BGAN device, 60% of the traffic is coming from the Middle East alone.” While he could not give an exact figure in terms of global revenues, Halawi said the region was specifically responsible for over 35%. The global mobile satellite communications company counts Emirates Airlines, the United Nations, and Aramco as customers. The media is also a big beneficiary, according to Halawi. “It used to be that the local media (Dubai TV, Al Jazeera, etc) relied upon BBC and CNN for their pictures. But now it’s the other way around,” he claimed. Inmarsat conducted an IPO (initial public offering) on the London Stock Exchange in June which raised US$669 million, and valued the company at roughly US$2.4 billion. The former international nongovernmental organisation, which was privately acquired in 2003, is testing a third satellite in space and studying the commercial implications for aeronautical and maritime routes, which could take its range closer to 100% of earth land mass.

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