Inmarsat celebrates moving into the LEO space

UK geosynchronous satellite player Inmarsat isn’t about to let the likes of Elon Musk steal its thunder and has announced the activation of its first low earth orbit satellite.

The cunning plan is to integrate these new LEO satellites with geosynchronous orbit (GEO), highly elliptical orbit (HEO) satellites, and a terrestrial 5G network to make a mega network. Apparently to emphasise the harmony between these disparate birds, the whole system has been branded ‘Orchestra’, which Inmarsat capitalises but we don’t because that’s annoying.

“Customers have expressed great excitement about Inmarsat’s Orchestra network and we are making fast progress to bring that network to reality,” said Rajeev Suri, CEO of Inmarsat. “Development of the terrestrial network is proceeding well and we are now moving forward with live tests of Orchestra LEO layer.

“Our vision for Orchestra is a network that uses the right technology for the right purpose. We are not beholden to a single approach and believe that the best way to meet customer needs is a multidimensional approach that includes GEO, LEO and terrestrial 5G in a dynamic mesh that brings capacity to where it is needed in the most efficient way possible.”

“Our demonstration LEO satellite payload is designed to create new technologies and services that will transform the use of satellite communications by our mobility and government customers worldwide,” said Yasrine Ibnyahya, Inmarsat’s Senior Director of Advanced Concepts and Technologies. “Using software defined radio payloads in LEO, we are able to test, refine, retest and validate as many concepts as we need. It is a quick, agile and highly economic approach that enables us to meet our ambitious targets for rolling out key components for Inmarsat Orchestra.”

These are exciting times for the satellite connectivity space. The arrival of LEO startups has forced incumbents such as Inmarsat to raise their game and its impending merger with Viasat has the potential to give it even more firepower to fight back. Whether there’s sufficient demand for this sort of thing to justify the billions being spent on it, however, remains to be seen.

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