Inmarsat to launch fourth I-5 Ka-band GX satellite this year

An Inmarsat I-5 satellite for its Ka-band GX Aviation service.
An Inmarsat I-5 satellite for its Ka-band GX Aviation service.

Inmarsat has confirmed it intends to launch its fourth I-5 satellite for its Global Xpress Ka-band network by the end of the year.

Speaking after Inmarsat released its annual results, CEO Rupert Pearce, said: “We can now confirm that the group intends to launch its fourth GX satellite, Inmarsat-5 F4 (‘I-5 F4’) in the latter part of 2016.

“We continue to explore a number of different orbital locations, business opportunities and related revenues for this satellite. Further guidance will be provided closer to the launch date.”

Inmarsat had said previously that it wanted to see where demand for its GX services would peak in order to work out the best orbital slot position for the fourth I-5.

2016 will be the year that Inmarsat finally starts to see a return on its investment in Global Xpress.

Pearce said: “The $500m targeted annual revenue run-rate for GX revenues by the end of 2020, the fifth anniversary of the global launch of commercial GX services, remains unchanged pending a decision on the orbital slot and business plan for I-5 F4 later this year.

“Mainly as a result of the introduction of Global Xpress, we expect that Group revenues (excluding LightSquared) will increase to between $1,225m and $1,300m in 2016 and will reach between $1,450m and $1,600m in 2018.”

European Aviation Network

Lufthansa announces its partnership with Inmarsat on September 21 2015.
Lufthansa announces its partnership with Inmarsat on September 21 2015.

Pearce also said that Inmarsat had made significant progress in developing its hybrid European Aviation Network (EAN). Strategic relationships have been established with Deutsche Telekom to develop the ground component of the EAN and major airline contracts for Inmarsat aviation services have been signed with Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.

He added: “We have continued our efforts to secure necessary ground and satellite licences in all 28 EU member states and two further European countries, and now have 28 satellite authorisations in Europe and confirmations from 18 countries regarding ground-based licences.”

Inmarsat says that it anticipates that initially the ATG element will consist of approximately 300 LTE sites, which Deutsche Telekom will build and manage throughout the 12-year period of its strategic partnership.

“Our S-band satellite is currently under construction by Thales Alenia Space. Due to circumstances outside our control, the planned launch of this satellite by SpaceX is now scheduled for the first half of 2017,” Pearce said. “But this should not impact on availability for the overall EAN for testing and commercial deployment, which remains on target for mid-2017.

“Our costs to build, launch and insure the S-band satellite will be held to around $200m, due to a satellite sharing agreement with Hellas-Sat.

“We remain confident that delivery of pan-European regulatory approvals for the EAN will be completed to support commercial deployment to plan.”

Inmarsat I-6 fleet

In December, Inmarsat also announced the award of a contract to Airbus Defence and Space to build the first two mobile communications satellites for Inmarsat’s sixth-generation (I-6) fleet.

The contract, valued in the region of $600 million for the construction of the two satellites, will see Airbus deliver the first satellite, Inmarsat-6 F1 by 2020, at a time when the two oldest of its Inmarsat-4 satellites will be reaching the end of their design life.

Inmarsat says the sixth-generation fleet will feature a dual payload with each new I-6 satellite supporting both L-band and Ka-band services. These will provide significant increases in capability and capacity.

Pearce said a third satellite will eventually be added to the first two I-6s to bring global capability to the I-6 fleet but, with the most recent I-4 L-band satellite, Alphasat, having only been launched in 2013, this may not be needed for several more years.

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