Inmarsat’s Global Xpress to revolutionise satcoms

Oct 14 2013

Shipowners and managers can achieve 10% operational savings if they focus on the value of satellite communications rather than on cost.

In a keynote speech at the recent London International Shipping Week, Frank Coles, Inmarsat Maritime president, urged the shipping industry to weigh up the cost of investing in improved satellite communications against the substantial benefits.

“The problem is people haven’t always moved with the times and so may not know what’s possible,” he said.

“So, they’ll look at their current cost, which is an average of $25 per day and seek a reduction.

“In reality, though, that’s just 0.3% of a ship’s running costs. It’s literally a drop in the ocean.

“However, if they were to increase that to just $100 per day to take advantage of unlimited email and data, our figures show they could actually reduce the cost of running a ship by 10%,” Coles claimed.

In monetary terms a vessel using satcoms to their full potential could cut running costs by nearly $200,000 a year, Coles said.

The potential savings outlined come from a variety of sources, including:

  • Fuel savings.
  •  Performance improvements.
  • Lower port charges.
  • Insurance premium reductions.
  •  Better crew morale and retention.
  • Lowering the cost of remote IT repairs and support.

Coles urged shipowners and managers to draw a comparison between how they hasten to equip their teenage children with a mobile phone, so they are safe and contactable, with their reluctance to invest in satcoms to keep in contact with a ship worth $50 mill, or more.

During the same week, Shane Rossbacher, Inmarsat’s director of maritime market development for Inmarsat revealed how the new offering Global Xpress (GX) will revolutionise maritime communications.

GX is claimed to be the world’s first global high speed broadband service. It will offer the unique combination of seamless global coverage from a single operator, consistent higher performance data speeds and network reliability. The availability of higher bandwidth on a consistent, end-toend, global basis is already generating significant interest in the industry, he said.

In a speech, Rossbacher outlined what he said was the superior engineering behind GX and the partnership with Cisco to deliver a ‘state-of-theart’ satellite applications service enablement platform (SEP) and high-performance access network for the new system.

Increased data speeds form an important element of GX, however, the service also introduces unique and innovative capabilities. Inmarsat has partnered with Cisco, iDirect and Boeing to build the SEP, which will form an integral part of the GX maritime solution.


Applications revolution

Rossbacher explained how SEP has the potential to revolutionise the way in which applications are deployed using satcoms.

SEP introduces the ability for individual applications to dynamically manage GX bandwidth. He gave several examples. A ship can be fitted with CCTV video cameras and in normal circumstances there is no need to view these video feeds from ashore.

However, during a security incident, GX allows the video surveillance application to open more capacity through the satellite and the shipping company can view live feeds and retrieve security logs. Once the issue is resolved, bandwidth is returned to normal.

Telemedicine can also be greatly enhanced by providing additional bandwidth when needed, ensuring high quality communications. The increase in bandwidth is also a benefit to the crew, which is enhanced through the ability to buy pre-paid products and services directly via the SEP platform.

For a shipping company, this means that communications can be used more effectively, as needed - reducing costs and dramatically improving operations, he said.


Inmarsat’s Frank Coles.


For application developers, GX opens up limitless possibilities as to how bandwidth may be used, while GX portals provide the opportunity to present their applications directly to the ship operator and crew.

Rossbacher concluded his presentation by saying, “Customers are not interested in the variations of Ka, Ku, C, L-Band technology – in today’s business environment, their only criteria is a solution that is reliable, available, operationally effective and cost efficient.

“Our task is to deliver solutions that help improve their business, driving operational efficiencies between shore and ship. Inmarsat’s future strategy is to offer services beyond pure satellite connectivity,” he stressed.


No significant delay

As to the timing of the introduction to the new service, Coles has reiterated that despite the failure of a Proton launch in July this year, there has been no operationally significant delay to the schedule for the first GX satellite.

F2 and F3 are both on course to be launched next year with full global coverage achieved by the end of 2014, he said in a letter to the leading maritime IT magazine Digital Ship.

Inmarsat and its manufacturing partner Boeing provide updates on the progress of the I5 (GX) satellites and this information is available at, and through Inmarsat Maritime’s GX value added resellers, which include Imtech, Telemar, Navarino, NSSL, SingTel, e3 and GMPCS.

He said that GX is set to revolutionise maritime communications and the outstanding performance of Inmarsat Maritime’s XpressLink service, a migration pathway to GX, is a clear indication that shipowners and operators across the world are eagerly awaiting the arrival of this service.

* Inmarsat told Tanker Operator that up to end of June 2013, the number of FleetBroadband subscribers numbered over 38,000.

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