British satellite giant Inmarsat is launching a new network of satellites to offer global broadband and 5G services, joining an escalating space race alongside rivals Elon Musk and Oneweb.
The project, dubbed Orchestra, will bring together the company’s existing geosynchronous satellites (Geo) with low-earth orbit satellites (Leo) and land-based 5G services to create a single network.
It is aimed at improving connectivity in areas such as ports, for aircraft and for vehicles and people in remote locations.
Inmarsat, which was snapped up by US hedge funds in a controversial $3.4bn deal in 2019, said it will fork out an initial $100m on the plans over the first five years.
“By combining the distinct qualities of GEO, LEO and 5G into a single network, we will deliver a service that is far greater than the sum of its parts,” said chief executive Rajeev Suri.
“Our customers will benefit from dramatically expanded high throughput services around the world. This is the future of connectivity and Inmarsat is perfectly positioned to bring it to the world with its proven technology expertise, right base of customers and partners, and financial strength.”
The project introduces a major new player into the escalating race to deploy satellites to help roll out internet services in the most remote locations around the world.
Elon Musk’s Space X is currently the frontrunner, followed by British rival Oneweb, which was bailed out by the government in a rescue deal last year.
The competition has prompted media regulator Ofcom to propose tougher rules on how to regulate the nascent industry, introducing new conditions on licences for providers.
Inmarsat said its constellation will be unique as it is the first to bring together different technologies into one network.
The company added that its network will offer the highest capacity and tackle the issue of congested ‘hot spots’.