UK satellite company takes on Musk and Bezos with communications network of future

Space X confirms deployment of 60 Starlink satellites

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Inmarsat has announced its plans for a groundbreaking network of communication satellites, dubbed ORCHESTRA. The “first of its kind” satellite constellation will combine the benefits of 5G networking with low-Earth orbit (LEO) and geosynchronous orbit (GEO) satellites into one integrated system. Rajeev Suri, CEO of Inmarsat, believes the bold plans are the “future of connectivity”.

Mr Suri said: “By combining the distinct quality 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.”

Today, the company owns and operates a handful of satellites that power mobile communications around the globe.

ORCHESTRA will see the company expand its network by 150 to 170 satellites over the next five years.

To reach this goal, Inmarsat is investing £71.7million ($100million) on the satellite fleet.

The technology company has described ORCHESTRA as a “revolutionary” approach that will meet the world’s growing demand for broadband access.

They promise “high-performance connectivity” just about everywhere, including demanding hotspots like ports, airports, sea canals and flight corridors.

The goal is to build “the communications network of the future”.

And why is the project called ORCHESTRA? Mr Suri explained: “An orchestra brings different instruments together, each supporting the other and playing its role in the masterpiece.

“We’re building ORCHESTRA on the same concept.”

NASA: Expert compares SpaceX to UK’s OneWeb

Inmarsat’s most obvious competitors at this stage are going to be SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s Project Kuiper.

Starlink, in particular, is already well on its way towards building a network of internet-beaming satellites.

Although still in beta, the Starlink service is expected to go global before the end of 2021.

Gwynne Shotwell, COO of SpaceX, has confirmed this summer Starlink customers will be offered a continuous service by September.

As of May 2021, Elon Musk’s company has launched more than 1,700 satellites, although the constellation is expected to hit 42,000 units.

The company recently said it now serves some 90,000 customers across 12 countries.

Unlike Inmarsat, Starlink’s satellites will only operate in LEO, between 200 and 400 miles above Earth.

The British company will also have to compete with Amazon’s Project Kuiper.

Announced in 2019 as a subsidiary of Amazon, the company aims to deploy a large satellite constellation to provide space-based broadband.

In July last year, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved Kuiper’s plans to operate a constellation of 3,236 satellites.

Dave Limp, Senior Vice President at Amazon, said at the time: “There are still too many places where broadband access is unreliable or where it doesn’t exist at all. Kuiper will change that.

“Our $10billion (£71billion) investment will create jobs and infrastructure around the United States that will help us close this gap.”

Another UK company, OneWeb, has also taken on SpaceX’s Starlink following a whopping £360million investment.

The OneWeb constellation will also operate a broadband service from LEO.

The company has previously filed for bankruptcy but has been resurrected by the Indian company Bharti Global.

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