The British satellite telecoms company Inmarsat has ordered three Boeing satellites, which it will use to deliver high-speed broadband to ships and planes.
The deal with Boeing, announced on Friday, will see the Ka-band satellites formed into a new Inmarsat-5 (I-5) constellation that will support a service called Global Xpress. Operations are scheduled to begin in 2014, with Global Xpress offering speeds of up to 50Mbps. This speed is equal to the fastest service currently available through fixed broadband in the UK.
The Ka-band encompasses spectrum between 26.5 to 40 GHz. Existing satellite broadband services tend to be delivered using the Ku-band, which lies between 12 and 18GHz. This means the new I-5 satellites will be able to offer greater bandwidth than their predecessors.
"This is a new investment for growth," Inmarsat chief executive Andrew Sukawaty said in a statement. "With the Global Xpress network, we will be the first operator to offer global broadband coverage, offering unparalleled speeds and bandwidth to customers in remote locations around the world."
Inmarsat is, along with Solaris Mobile, one of the two companies permitted by the European Commission to provide satellite broadband services in Europe. Solaris Mobile offers services delivered via Ku-band, while Inmarsat's current lineup is based on the L-band.
"Global Xpress will be faster and less expensive than current Ku-band market offerings, it will be delivered to smaller and cheaper terminals and be the first offered on a seamless, global, end-to-end basis with high-quality of service. Picture 50Mbps services to a ship or aircraft, and 10Mbps to an antenna the size of an iPad," Sukawaty added.
According to Inmarsat, the total cost of the three I-5s and the Global Xpress infrastructure will come to $1.2bn (£752m) over 4.5 years. The company hopes to get $500m in annual Ka-band revenues five years after the Global Xpress launch.
Established and growing markets for satellite broadband services include the maritime, energy and government sectors, Inmarsat said. It that there is "further growth potential in developing markets such as the aeronautical sector".
Also in Friday's announcement, Inmarsat said Boeing had agreed to become a distribution partner for Inmarsat's Ka-band and L-band services, and would account for more than 10 percent of Inmarsat's target Ka-band revenues in the first five years after launch.
The L-band, between 1 and 2GHz, offers lower bandwidth but greater range than the Ka-band. In the statement, Sukawaty said the I-5s would complement Inmarsat's existing L-band services, and the company would offer "unique hybrid packages using both networks".