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Inmarsat’s Fleet Xpress service ‘a game-changer’ for shipping

Inmarsat’s Fleet Xpress service ‘a game-changer’ for shipping
Described as a marine game-changer, a paradigm moment in shipping and, quite literally, rocket science, the official launch of Inmarsat's Fleet Xpress (FX) service in London yesterday will change the face of commercial shipping over the next few years.

Not just commercial shipping, in fact, but potentially the offshore, fishing, leisure and workboat sectors too. This was the main message from senior Inmarsat executives as they revealed how the new service will work.

Inmarsat Maritime President, Ronald Spithout, said that everyone now wants connectivity everywhere, including at sea, both for business efficiency but also for crew welfare. He predicted an eight-fold increase in marine data traffic between now and 2020. Experts have warned repeatedly that ship connectivity will become increasingly important in the crew recruitment and retention process in the years ahead.

Fleet Xpress, Spithout said, is the only satellite broadband marine communications system available from a single operator which owns and controls its own high-bandwidth satellites, its own satcoms network and provides complete redundancy throughout the system.

The new service, which operates over three satellites in Inmarsat's recently launched I-5 constellation, covers almost the entire planet and integrates high throughput capacity available in the Ka-band frequency range with the reliable but lower capacity satellites operating on the L-band. The combination, Spithout said, promised a complete new era in one of the world's last major industrial sectors to adopt new technology to make business more efficient.

The FX service offers subscribers a range of benefits. One of the most important is the opportunity, for the first time, for software providers to offer their own applications over the FX service. Apps will either be available within a customer's existing bandwidth, or directly from application providers which have their own arrangements with Inmarsat and can subsequently offer ship operators a discrete all-inclusive service.

FX has been designed with unprecedented flexibility and a range of service and charging plans to suit subscribers’ needs. There is scope to upgrade or downgrade, to tailor bandwidth for limited periods and to obtain bandwidth on demand. Telemedicine, for example, with high bandwidth requirements, will now be available for as long as necessary, but no longer.

Inmarsat is now working with Singtel subsidiary Trustware to develop jointly a cyber-security package based on Trustware’s proven Unified Threat Management system. This new protection will be available as part of the FX service within the next few months.