Home5GInmarsat preps narrowband IoT satellite network and satellite-5G combi service

Inmarsat preps narrowband IoT satellite network and satellite-5G combi service

UK satellite communications provider Inmarsat is to launch a global narrowband network for IoT connectivity, targeting the aviation, maritime, and government sectors. The new service, which goes by the name ELERA, and launches in trial mode with aviation customers in 2022, uses L-band spectrum for various satellite and terrestrial usage. Inmarsat holds spectrum for satellite-based mobile communications at 1525-1646.5 MHz. 

Inmarsat said it expects to launch with various mobility, government and IoT customers over the “coming few years”. The launch follows its announcement last month it is to combine existing geosynchronous (GEO) satellites with low earth orbit satellites (LEO) and terrestrial 5G in an integrated solution called ORCHESTRA, billed as the “largest ever transformation” for the company’s connectivity portfolio. 

The new ELERA offer, meanwhile, is being presented as a “springboard for innovation… on land, at sea and in the air”. The company said: “The unique capabilities of ELERA, combined with Inmarsat’s superior spectrum and the ideally suited orbital position of its satellite networks, will make it the essential catalyst for new IoT use cases, across everything from autonomous transport and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to industrial and agricultural IoT.”

The company is promising connectivity speeds “up to 1.7Mbps” and smaller and lower cost terminals. It said carrier aggregation capabilities will be incorporated into the ELERA network to offer the fastest L-band speeds in the market — “far outstripping the capabilities of any other worldwide L-band network,” it said. New hardware innovations (“smallest footprint, low cost”) will deliver “the ideal framework for satcom IoT at scale”, it said.

It will also launch two new Inmarsat-6 (I-6) satellites, described as “the largest and most sophisticated commercial communication satellites ever created”. The first (I-6 F1) is scheduled to launch before the year is out. The L-band capacity on each I-6 satellite will be “substantially greater”, with 50 percent more capacity per beam, allowing for more data over the same geographical area, as well as unlimited beam routing flexibility.

Rajeev Suri, chief executive at Inmarsat, commented: “ELERA is perfectly suited to the needs of the connected IoT world. Global reach, extraordinary resilience, faster speeds, smaller and lower cost terminals are all part of ensuring that we remain ahead of others in meeting the needs of our customers… ELERA… [will] transform the capabilities offered to IoT and mobility customers for years to come and confirms our long-term commitment to L-band services.”

Meanwhile, its new ORCHESTRA combi-connectivity, which will cost the company $100 million over five years, will enable “close-shore navigation for autonomous vessels, next-generation emergency safety services for maritime crews, tactical private networks for governments, and direct-to-cloud connections for airlines”, the company said. It will draw sales from rigs and drilling platforms, mid-market business aircraft, and various coastal vessels, it reckons.

A statement said: “LEO, GEO, and terrestrial networks have never been combined at scale before to create a unified connectivity service for mobility customers. The result is a ‘dynamic mesh network’ that will deliver high-performance connectivity everywhere. Bringing together the lowest average latency and fastest average speeds with unique resilience, ORCHESTRA will eliminate the industry-wide challenge of congested network ‘hot spots’.”

Suri commented: “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.”

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