The successful trial was conducted on board the polar expedition cruise ship Ocean Nova, using a Cobham Sailor 100GX antenna which was able to provide low-horizon satellite views through heavy cloud cover and precipitation.
“Fleet Xpress delivered on its promise of high-speed seamless mobile broadband service in one of the world’s most difficult areas for most satellite systems,” said Luis Soltero, chief technical officer of Global Marine Networks, which participated in the trials along with Network Innovations, operator Nova Cruises placing an order for fleetwide installation of the system as a result.
The successful trial of Fleet Xpress, which is a hybrid Ka and L-band service using Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) network, also holds out prospects for use of Inmarsat services in the Arctic, such as on commercial transits of the Northern Sea Route that are now beginning, Inmarsat spokesman Johnathan Sinnatt told Seatrade Maritime News.
Geostationary satellites positioned over the Equator have difficulty covering the very top and bottom of the Earth, he explained, adding "both the GX and our L-band networks do frequently cover as far north as the Arctic Ocean and as far south as Antarctica itself – although it is patchy.
“[The NSR] is something we’ve certainly been looking at,” he continued. “We’ve been keeping a close eye on the possibility of those northern routes coming into operation, and considering solutions for that.”
In late December, the group entered into a deal with Airbus for two sixth-generation satellites, the next generation in Inmarsat’s lineup. Due to be delivered by 2020, the new satellites will carry a dual-payload supporting Global Xpress Ka-band services and a dramatically more powerful L-band, which will “maximise the growth opportunities we see in this spectrum,” according to ceo Rupert Pearce, at the time of the announcement.
“The new satellites will provide significantly greater L-band capacity and will be capable of supporting a new generation of more advanced services,” said Pearce.
A further GX satellite, in addition to the three already launched successfully, is due to be launched in the latter half of this year.