While unfortunate launch failures continue to delay completion of the new Inmarsat Global Xpress service we’ve all heard so much about, it’s going to be very interesting to see how the other cracks in their foundation impact this ill-fated effort.
Consider the major advantages claimed for Global Xpress in light of the reality of presentations on Inmarsat has made on their new service:
Seamless global mobility
Only 72 of 89 each Global Xpress satellite spot beams are available at any time (81%), so many customers will be periodically and unexpectedly limited to older, very high latency FleetBroadband service as they travel.
Switching between significantly different services will make it very difficult to run a lot of modern applications, that must be designed for the weaker link.
Simpler to install
Installing two unique antennas (one for Global Xpress, and one for FleetBroadband) and four below deck units (1 FleetBroadband transceiver, 1 antenna control units, 1 iDirect modem, 1 Cisco router) and connecting two discrete networks isn't easier than a modern, fully integrated maritime VSAT antenna.
More affordable VSAT terminals
A $20K FB 500 system and a Ka band VSAT system with a more accurate antenna, an iDirect modem, and a Cisco router is going to be more expensive – no way around it. Inmarsat may choose to subsidize the cost, but at some point in the relationship, the customer will pay (just think about the price increases in the past few years!).
Inmarsat acknowledges Global Xpress Ka band service will not be particularly reliable, which is why they’ve had to bolt on FleetBroadband: "For extra resilience, Inmarsat GX will be complemented by our FleetBroadband service on the Inmarsat-4s, which deliver 99.9% network availability."
Network capacity and service cost
For 5 years we’ve heard from Inmarsat about the astonishing “50 Mbps service” users will enjoy.
Now the truth is coming out that that service is the TOTAL capacity in a spotbeam, divided amongst all users. Further, we’re now learning Inmarsat has sized their new network 10:1 forward link to return link, meaning the TOTAL capacity in a spot beam for broadcasting off of the vessel is only 5Mbps, again shared by all users.
In my opinion, these launch delays are just the beginning of the bad news associated with Global Xpress! With FSS industry leaders like Inmarsat, Eutelsat, ViaSat and Telenor adding a lot of new capacity over the oceans, maritime customers have more choices than ever before to meet their offshore connectivity needs.