Inmarsat’s soon to be launched Global Xpress (GX) satellite service was presented at the Fathom Ship Efficiency event in detail, with a focus on how the system might provide new ways of thinking about content and services for the commercial shipping sector.

Frank Coles, president if Inmarsat’s maritime division provided the overview, explaining that the first satellite, which will provide coverage from the Mediterranean to the South China seas will be lofted and operational starting in early 2014, with the next two satellites coming online to cover the Atlantic and Pacific regions by 2015. Two further launches are being considered, he said.

Cobham, JRC, Sea Tel and Intellian are manufacturing the 60cm and 1m terminals for the system, and like monthly data plans for mobile phones, Inmarsat is moving to a scaled monthly fee structure which will guarantee minimum speeds for all users. For that single monthly fee, subscribers will also have redundant access to the previous generation Fleet Broadband network.


Frank Coles, president of Inmarsat Maritime

In June, e3 was named as a value-added reseller for the GX system. Roger Horner said at the time, “Inmarsat has addressed all the details that will be important to our end customers with innovations such as lightweight antennas, adaptable service plans, redundancy, systems engineering and compliance. More than anything else, however, they have shown their willingness to listen to partners and customers to ensure that the service they deliver ticks every box. It is this attention to detail that will make GX a success.”

Still there are obvious limitations to the service for superyachts, as our market’s clients have particular needs. The latest screen sizes and 4K resolutions, for instance, would still require crippling levels of bandwidth to supply streaming video at peak quality. Live sporting matches will be able to be streamed, but not at 4K resolution.


Rendering of an Inmarsat GX satelite

Where interesting solutions could lie, as Coles suggested, is in standard definition subscription services for crew, who may now be able to access personal Netflix or distance learning services via an application that provides them their own direct link, separate from the owner’s account.

“In one scenario, the owner just lets the crew use their on board broadband, so the crew browser goes through the general on-board traffic. There’s another concept where owners may want to keep crew and personal services separate. In that case, an application developer an application developer can sell directly to a crew member. Through the on-screen GX portal, crew can have personal accounts, log in and see a catalogue of broadband-intensive applications they may want to buy. The third option is that these application developers (learning course developers for instance) can sell the applications to the owner or to the fleet managers, who provide them to the crew.”

Certainly a few ideas for superyacht owners and managers to consider as the system comes online over the next two years.

Profile links

Inmarsat Ltd

Cobham SATCOM

Sea Tel Inc.

Intellian Technologies

e3 Systems