Inmarsat not angling for NBN with 50Mbps satellite service

New satellite constellation to be geared towards government, energy and maritime sectors

Inmarsat will use a constellation of three new 702HP Ka-band satellites to provide mobile broadband data services up to 50Mbps to the energy, government and maritime industries.

However, the company will not be targeting its Inmarsat-5 constellation, which can get the 50Mbps to customer terminals that are 20-60cm in size, at the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Instead, it is setting up a global service called Global Xpress to capture share in the $1.4 billion martime, energy and government sectors along with emerging markets such as aeronautics.

The total cost of the satellite constellation and service is expected to be $1.2 billion over four and a half years.

Inmarsat COO, Perry Melton, told Computerworld Australia the Global Xpress development will offer an “unprecedented” service.

“It will be faster and less expensive than the current Ku-band services that serve Australia and will meet the needs of bandwidth-hungry users in the country’s government, energy and maritime sectors,” Melton said.

The company will continue to offer its Inmarsat-4 services and will focus on delivering connectivity for mission critical applications in remote areas.

“Global Xpress is not aimed at capturing satellite based NBN connections,” Inmarsat partner TC Communciations CEO, Todd McDonnel said. “The two services are really designed to fulfill different market needs. The NBN is designed to deliver Internet services to homes and businesses in Australia, and its design is being optimised for this kind of delivery.”

This week National Broadband Network (NBN) wholesaler, NBN Co, revealed it is readying the release of interim satellite solutions for rural Australian communities ahead of launching two permanent, Ka-band satellites for the network.

The interim services from NBN Co are unlikely to deliver the 12 megabits per second (Mbps) committed speeds promised under the proposed network, but will improve on the satellite services currently available under the Government’s Australian Broadband Guarantee (ABG) program, which subsidises satellite internet access at speeds between 256 kilobits per second (Kbps) or 1Mbps.

NBN Co chief executive, Mike Quigley, revealed the new plan at the Australian Computer Society (ACS) Charles Todd Oration event when asked why rural communities hadn’t been served before urban areas in the network’s rollout.

In other satellite news, Optus recently confirmed it will soon launch a premium satellite service, delivering downstream speeds of up to 6 megabits per second (Mbps) and upstream speeds of 1Mbps.

The new service, dubbed Optus Premium Satellite, will boost the telco’s existing broadband services in remote and regional areas to six times the speed available under current offerings subsidised by the Government’s Australian Broadband Guarantee (ABG) program.

A spokesperson confirmed the telco was looking to launch the offerings “in coming weeks”, which would initially be targeted at small business and enterprises in the mining and construction sector.

Under the ABG, those in remote and rural areas can access broadband services with an access speed of between 256 kilobits per second (Kbps) and 1Mbps downstream.

Australian satellite communications company, NewSat (ASX: NWT), also said it is on track to launch the Jabiru-1 ‘next generation satellite’ in the last quarter of 2012.

In an ASX statement, the company said it planned to undertake the telemetry, tracking and control for Jabiru-1 and would also be the sales and marketing arm for the satellite.

It also plans to have a minimum of 50 per cent of transponders pre-sold by 30 June 2010.

Jabiru-1 will provide satellite communication services coverage to Australia, South East Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa.

Unlike Inmarsat, NewSat flagged that it is working to participate in the NBN.

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