company_name = Inmarsat plc
company_type = Public (lse|ISAT)
foundation = 1979
location = London, United Kingdom
key_people = Andrew Sukawaty (Chairman and CEO)
revenue = profit $576.5 million USD (2007)cite web |url= |title="Annual report and accounts 2007" |accessdate=2008-04-11]
operating_income = profit $211.4 million USD (2007)
net_income= profit $96.6 million UDS (2007)
industry = Satellite communication
homepage = []

Inmarsat plc (lse|ISAT) is an international telecommunications company originally operating as an intergovernmental organization. It provides telephony and data services to users world-wide, via special terminals which communicate to ground stations through twelve geosynchronous telecommunications satellites. Inmarsat's network provides reliable communications services to a range of governments, aid agencies, media outlets and businesses with a need to communicate in remote regions or where there is no reliable terrestrial network. The Company is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index from September 2008.


The company was originally founded in 1979 as the International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO), a not-for-profit international organization, set up at the behest of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations body, for the purpose of establishing a satellite communications network for the maritime community. [Jonathan Higgins, "Satellite Newsgathering", Focal Press, 2007, page 204 ISBN 978-0240519739] From the beginning, the acronym "Inmarsat" was used. The intent was to create a self-financing body which would improve safety of life at sea. The name was changed to "International Mobile Satellite Organization" when it began to provide services to aircraft and portable users, but the acronym "Inmarsat" was kept. It did not actually begin trading until 1982. [Jonathan Higgins page 205] When the organization was converted into a private company in 1999, the business was split into two parts: The bulk of the organization was converted into the commercial company, Inmarsat PLC, and a small group became the regulatory body, IMSO. [Jonathan Higgins page 207]

In 2005 Apax Partners and Permira bought shares in the Company. The Company was also first listed on the London Stock Exchange in that year. [ [ Dollars & Sense] ]

In March 2008 it was disclosed that U.S. hedge fund Harbinger Capital owned 28% of the company. [ [ Private equity orbits Inmarsat] ]


Aside from its commercial services, Inmarsat provides global maritime distress and safety services (GMDSS) to ships and aircraft at no charge, as a public service. [ [ GMDSS weather] ]

Services include traditional voice calls, low-level data tracking systems, and high-speed internet and other data services as well as distress and safety services. The most recent of these provides GPRS-type services at up to 492 kbit/s via the Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) IP satellite modem the size of a notebook computer. [ [ Inmarsat: BGAN terminals] ] Other services provide mobile Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) services used by the media for live reporting on world events via videophone. [ [ Transforming satellite newsgathering] ]

Historically expensive, calls via Inmarsat have now dropped to a level where they are comparable, and in many cases favorable, to international roaming costs, or hotel phone calls. Voice call charges are the same for any location in the world where the service is used. Tariffs for calls to Inmarsat country codes vary, depending on the country in which they are placed. Inmarsat primarily uses country code 870, but continues to use country codes 871 to 874. Country codes 871 to 874 will be phased out and returned to the ITU to be made available for other purposes on December 31, 2008. [ Inmarsat: one world, one number] ]

Newer Inmarsat services use an IP technology that features an always-on capability where the users are only charged for the amount of data they send and receive, rather than the length of time they are connected. [ [ BGAN provides "eyes and ears" for oil rigs] ] This applies specifically to BGAN, Regional BGAN, and MPDS.

The satellites are digital transponders that receive digital signals, reform the pulses, and then retransmit them to ground stations. Ground stations maintain usage and billing data and function as gateways to the public switched telephone network and the Internet.

The first (F1), second (F2) and third (F3) of Inmarsat's most recent series of satellites, known as the "I4" satellites, were launched in June and November of 2005. The third and final satellite (F3) was launched from the Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on the 18th August 2008. [ [ Successful launch for third Inmarsat-4 satellite] ] These were the largest commercial telecommunications satellites ever launched. Each satellite is equipped with a global beam, 19 regional spot beams, and 228 narrow spot beams.

In addition to its own satellites, Inmarsat has a collaboration agreement with ACeS regarding handheld voice services. [ [ Inmarsat and ACeS announce low cost hand held and fixed voice services] ]


There are 3 types of coverage related to each Inmarsat satellite. [ [ How the Inmarsat satellite system works] ]

;Global beam coverage:Each satellite is equipped with a single global beam that covers up to one-third of the Earth's surface, apart from the poles. In general, global beam coverage extends from latitudes of −78 to +78 degrees regardless of longitude.

;Wide spot beam coverage:It relates to the overlap of the wide spot beams (a set of narrower beams creating a coverage pattern). Wide spot beam coverage is optimised for covering most areas of interest to Inmarsat's customers and is thus somewhat limited in comparison to global beam coverage. This coverage was introduced with the I-3 satellites. Each I-4 satellite provides 19 wide spot beams.

;Narrow spot beam coverage:It relates to the overlap of the narrow spot beams (a set of very narrow beams creating a coverage pattern). Narrow spot beam coverage is designed to form the backbone of Inmarsat's broadband services, including the Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN). This coverage is introduced with the I-4 satellites. Each I-4 satellite provides 228 narrow spot beams.


Country codes

The permanent telephone country code for calling Inmarsat destinations is:
*870 SNAC (Single Network Access Code)Country codes in temporary use until December 31, 2008 are
*871 Atlantic Ocean Region – East (AOR-E)
*872 Pacific Ocean Region (POR)
*873 Indian Ocean Region (IOR)
*874 Atlantic Ocean Region – West (AOR-W)

The 870 SNAC number is actually a locator service so that you don't have to know to which satellite the destination Inmarsat terminal is logged-in. SNAC is now usable by all Inmarsat systems.

The other four country codes correspond to the areas that Inmarsat satellites cover (normally one satellite per area). These areas are commonly called "Ocean Regions". With the advent of SNAC on 870, the other country codes are no longer needed, but are still preferred by some users. Codes 871 to 874 will be phased out on December 31, 2008, as required by the ITU.


Inmarsat has gradually developed a series of networks providing certain sets of services (most networks support multiple services). They are grouped into two sets, existing and evolved services, and IP-based services. Existing and evolved services are offered through Land Earth Stations which are not owned nor operated by Inmarsat, but through companies which have a commercial agreement with Inmarsat. IP-based services are provided via distribution partners but the satellite gateways are owned and operated by Inmarsat directly.

IP-based shared-carrier services, as follows: [ [ Inmarsat services] ]

*Regional BGAN: RBGAN offers a shared-channel IP packet-switched service of up to 144 kbit/s based on GPRS technology. Coverage is limited to parts of Europe, Asia, Africa & Australia. The new Inmarsat-4 satellite for the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) has taken over RBGAN service from the Thuraya satellite. The new Inmarsat-4 satellite for AOR-West now provides service to South America and the Western edges of Europe and Africa, however no service is offered to North or Central America. Inmarsat have announced the closure of the RBGAN service in 31 December 2008.

*BGAN: Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) benefits from the new I-4 satellites to offer a shared-channel IP packet-switched service of up to 492 kbit/s (uplink and downlink speeds may differ and depend on terminal model) and a streaming-IP service from 32 up to 256 kbit/s (services depend on terminal model). Certain terminals also offer circuit-switched Mobile ISDN services at 64 kbit/s and even low speed (4.8 kbit/s) voice etc services. BGAN service is available on the IOR satellite and AOR-West satellite, with POR service planned for 2Q 2008. The BGAN family includes SwiftBroadband, a service planned for aircraft, and FleetBroadband, a service planned for ships and the maritime community.

*Fleet Broadband (FB): Fleet Broadband is based on BGAN technology, offering similar services and using the same infrastructure as BGAN. Fleet Broadband is designed for Maritime use, and user terminals are designed for fitting on ships.

*Swift Broadband (SB): Like FB, Swift Broadband is based on BGAN and offers similar services. SB is designed for aeronautical users and terminals are specifically designed for use aboard commercial, private, and military aircraft.

Historic services, termed "Existing and Evolved", as follows: [ [ Inmarsat: our services at a glance] ]

*Aeronautical (Classic Aero): provides voice/fax/data services for aircraft. Three levels of terminals, Aero-L (Low Gain Antenna) primarily for packet data including ACARS and ADS, Aero-H (High Gain Antenna) for medium quality voice and fax/data at up to 9600 bit/s, and Aero-I (Intermediate Gain Antenna) for low quality voice and fax/data at up to 2400 bit/s. Note, there are also aircraft rated versions of Inmarsat-C and mini-M/M4. The aircraft version of GAN is called Swift64 (below)

*Inmarsat-A: provided voice services, telex services, medium speed fax/data services and, optionally, high speed data services at 56 or 64 kbit/s. The service was withdrawn at the end of 2007.

*Inmarsat-B: provides voice services, telex services, medium speed fax/data services at 9.6 kbit/s and high speed data services at 56, 64 or 128 kbit/s. There is also a 'leased' mode for Inmarsat-B available on the spare Inmarsat satellites.

*Inmarsat-C: effectively this is a "satellite telex" terminal with store-and-forward, polling etc capabilities. Certain models of Inmarsat-C terminals are also approved for usage in the GMDSS system, equipped with GPS.

*Inmarsat-E: A global maritime distress alerting service using small Emergency Position Indicating Rescue Beacons (EPIRB) that automatically relayed distress messages to maritime Rescue Coordination Centres. This service has been terminated.

*Inmarsat-M: provides voice services at 4.8 kbit/s and medium speed fax/data services at 2.4 kbit/s. It paved the way towards Inmarsat-Mini-M.

*Mini-M: provides voice services at 4.8 kbit/s and medium speed fax/data services at 2.4 kbit/s. Uses Inmarsat's zonal ray technology.

*GAN (Global Area Network): provides a selection of low speed services like voice at 4.8 kbit/s, fax & data at 2.4 kbit/s, ISDN like services at 64 kbit/s (called Mobile ISDN) and shared-channel IP packet-switched data services at 64 kbit/s (called Mobile Packet Data Service MPDS, formerly Inmarsat Packet Data Service – IPDS). GAN is also known as "M4".

*Fleet: actually a family of networks that includes the Inmarsat-Fleet77, Inmarsat-Fleet55 and Inmarsat-Fleet33 members. Much like GAN, it provides a selection of low speed services like voice at 4.8 kbit/s, fax/data at 2.4 kbit/s, medium speed services like fax/data at 9.6 kbit/s, ISDN like services at 64 kbit/s (called Mobile ISDN) and shared-channel IP packet-switched data services at 64 kbit/s (called Mobile Packet Data Service MPDS). However, not all these services are available with all members of the family. The latest service to be supported is Mobile ISDN at 128 kbit/s on Inmarsat-Fleet77 terminals.

*Swift 64: Similar to GAN, providing voice, low rate fax/data, 64kb/s ISDN, and MPDS services, for private, business, and commercial aircraft. Swift 64 is often sold in a multi-channel version, to support several times 64kb/s.

*Inmarsat-D/D+: Inmarsat's version of a pager, although much larger than terrestrial versions. Some units are equipped with GPS. The original Inmarsat-D terminals were one-way (to mobile) pagers. The newer Inmarsat-D+ terminals are the equivalent of a two-way pager. The main use of this technology nowadays is in tracking trucks and buoys and SCADA applications. Competing systems such as from Skybitz only operate on the MSAT geostationary satellite over North America.

*MPDS (Mobile Packet Data Service): Previously known as IPDS, this is an IP-based data service in which several users share a 64kb/s carrier in a manner similar to ADSL. MPDS-specific terminals are not sold; rather, this is a service which comes with most terminals that are designed for GAN, Fleet, and Swift64.

Handheld Voice Services

*IsatPhone: provides voice services at 4.8 kbit/s and medium speed fax/data services at 2.4 kbit/s. Emerges from a collaboration agreement with ACeS. This service is available in most of the coverage area provided by the IOR satellite located at 64 degrees East longitude. This covers most of Europe, Asia, Africa, and western Australia. Isatphone service will be available in America in 2009.

ee also

* telephone
* satellite phone
* marine and mobile radio telephony
* Thuraya
* International Maritime Organization
* Intersputnik
* Intelsat
* Iridium
* Globalstar
* ACeS


External links

* [ Inmarsat]
* [ Inmarsat Satellite Repositioning]
* [ How CNN streams video via Inmarsat]
* [ Inmarsat boat tracking]

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