Even for those of us who cover the latest technology for superyachts for a living, the satellite communications market can be a baffling landscape to survey. But emerging from the noise of competing antenna manufacturers, airtime providers and content packages, you will soon be hearing about Global Xpress, the new airtime service from Inmarsat.

We’ve known about this development for a while, and even attended an advance seminar on the technology for commercial shipping concerns so we could better grasp what was coming down the line. Finally, we asked Inmarsat’s Samantha Evans to pop in and get us up to speed on what they’re planning on offering to superyachts once the satellites are lofted and operational, starting at the end of 2014.

What is Global Xpress?

Global Xpress is the next step up in bandwidth availability for those of us lucky enough to rely on satellites to provide us our communication, data and entertainment. Inmarsat is launching four new satellites that run on the next generation of chips and transponders. Just like everything else technological, that means increased speeds and volumes. Inmarsat says Global Xpress will be the first globally available high-speed broadband service from a single operator.

What do you get?

Subscribers will get access to up to 50Mbps of download on a monthly fee. And as part of that access, all subscribers will also automatically have access to Inmarsat’s current generation technology, “Fleet Broadband,” as a backup in the event of any coverage issues. The company has two base stations or teleports per satellite that aim to ensure there’s always a clear beam of data from the ground from one or the other. Inmarsat does the hard sell and says the technological advantages they have brought together combine to deliver a higher speed, higher quality service with smaller, less expensive user equipment.

Next level service

Evans said she’s working on superyacht-specific pricing packages that offer more flexibility for yachts that typically don’t operate 365 days a year as do many of Inmarsat’s commercial maritime clients. Inmarsat is known for their commitment to marine communication as a matter of safety; Evans says the company is committed to developing their superyacht clients and she expects to come to market with a tailored set of offerings in the new year.

Within the superyacht market, Roger Horner and his team at e3 have been appointed “value added resellers” of the Global Xpress system. In a press release announcing the agreement, Horner said, “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.”

Superyacht clients are nothing like mainstream commercial clients, and are more like military clients in their expectations. Rumours have circulated recently of a yacht owner seeking a dedicated 50mbps beam exclusive to his yacht… a service that currently would either decimate Inmarsat’s ability to serve its other customers or require the owner to commission, launch and operate his own satellite. Then, with MIT and Stanford university now able to launch and operate tiny, single-function “cubesats,” dedicated yacht-specific satellites may not be an entirely outrageous idea.

We’ll check back with Inmarsat in the new year and keep you updated on all the latest satcoms news pertinent to you.

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