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By 2019, you can use internet while flying as Inmarsat to launch satellite

Inmarsat is looking at satellite internet on mobile in India by 2019

Raghu Krishnan  |  Bengaluru 

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Inmarsat, the global operator is looking at India to offer commercially high-speed services on phones allowing users to stream videos flying on a plane or driving on highways, once its next generation is launched in two years.
 
has a fleet of four Global Xpress (GX) satellites - that have with the ability to beam high-speed broadband on mobiles, currently, the only operational fleet in the world.

A fifth one, to be launched in 2019 will cover India, a market as its chief executive Rupert Pearce says is an "important long term opportunity".

"It also gives us access to the Indian Subcontinent for the first time, because it allows us to put a gateway in India to support GX services and break into India with GX services, which is an important long-term - I stress, long-term opportunity," Pearce said earlier this week.

The operator is setting up a gateway jointly with a local firm in the country to offer the commercial services. India, like countries such as Russia and China, mandates service providers to set up a local hub to originate or connect calls or access from its soil.

Inmarsat, which was founded as an organisation of the United Nations, has since become commercial and owns a fleet of 13 communication satellites, which helps in providing connectivity on high seas, inaccessible mountains and on highways. It also provides services to the US government as well as enterprises. In India, it already has a tie-up with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd for a local gateway to offer government communication services.

Through the GX satellites, has already signed up international airlines to offer high-speed on passenger aircraft. This could an opportunity even in India, say analysts.

"India is seeing a huge expansion in civil aviation. There is increased air connectivity as newer cities are being connected by air and airlines are adding new fleet," says P S Goel, a former Space scientist who heads the Dr Raja Ramanna chair at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. "There is a business opportunity."

On August 1, US plane maker Boeing forecast that airlines in India could order as many as 2,100 planes worth $ 290 billion in the next 20 years. This is an increase over its forecast in 2016 when it had estimated the airlines would order 1,850 planes.

Besides providing access to airline passengers, there is a huge opportunity to provide high-speed in remote places as well as on highways, which and other global providers are looking to tap.

The biggest one is OneWeb, in which Japanese investor Softbank has invested $1. 2 billion to launch a constellation of 648 satellites that would provide high-speed at low costs to users on earth. Sunil Bharti Mittal, founder of Bharti Enterprises, is an early investor in the operator.

These satellites would be launched aboard Blue Origin rockets, the company owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. 

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