Inmarsat is a British satellite telecommunications company, offering global mobile services. It provides telephone and data services to users worldwide, via portable or mobile terminals which communicate with ground stations through fourteen geostationary telecommunications satellites. Inmarsat's network provides communications services to a range of governments, aid agencies, media outlets and businesses (especially in the shipping, airline and mining industries) with a need to communicate in remote regions or where there is no reliable terrestrial network. The company was listed on the London Stock Exchange until it was acquired by Connect Bidco, a consortium consisting of Apax Partners, Warburg Pincus, the CPP Investment Board and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, in December 2019.
|Headquarters||London, England, U.K.|
|Revenue||US$1,465.2 million (2018) |
|US$288.7 million (2018)|
|US$125.0 million (2018)|
Number of employees
|1,500 (2019) |
On 8 November 2021, a deal was announced between Inmarsat's owners and Viasat, in which Viasat was to purchase Inmarsat.
The present company originates from the International Maritime Satellite Organization (INMARSAT), a non-profit intergovernmental organization established in 1979 at the behest of the International Maritime Organization (IMO)—the United Nations maritime body—and pursuant to the Convention on the International Maritime Satellite Organization, signed by 28 countries in 1976. The organisation was created to establish and operate a satellite communications network for the maritime community. In coordination with the International Civil Aviation Organization in the 1980s, the convention governing INMARSAT was amended to include improvements to aeronautical communications, notably for public safety. The member states owned varying shares of the operational business. The main offices were originally located in the Euston Tower, Euston Road, London.
In the mid-1990s, many member states were unwilling to invest in improvements to INMARSAT's network, especially owing to the competitive nature of the satellite communications industry, while many recognized the need to maintain the organization's older systems and the need for an intergovernmental organization to oversee public safety aspects of satellite communication networks. In 1998, an agreement was reached to modify INMARSAT's mission as an intergovernmental organization and separate and privatize the organization's operational business, with public safety obligations attached to the sale.
In April 1999, INMARSAT was succeeded by the International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO) as an intergovernmental regulatory body for satellite communications, while INMARSAT's operational unit was separated and became the UK-based company Inmarsat Ltd. The IMSO and Inmarsat Ltd. signed an agreement imposing public safety obligations on the new company. Inmarsat was the first international satellite organization that was privatized.
In 2005, Apax Partners and Permira bought shares in the company. The company was also first listed on the London Stock Exchange in that year. In March 2008, it was disclosed that U.S. hedge fund Harbinger Capital owned 28% of the company. In 2009, Inmarsat completed the acquisition of satellite communications provider Stratos Global Corporation (Stratos) and acquired a 19-percent stake in SkyWave Mobile Communications Inc., a provider of Inmarsat D+/IsatM2M network services which in turn purchased the GlobalWave business from TransCore. Inmarsat won the 2010 MacRobert Award for its Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) service.
Inmarsat at first provided services using Marisat and MARECS, which were launched by the US Navy and ESA respectively. In the early 1990s Inmarsat launched its first dedicated satellite constellation, Inmarsat-2. These satellites provided the Inmarsat-A service for maritime uses. Between 1996 and 1998 Inmarsat's second constellation, Inmarsat-3, was launched. Consisting of five geostationary L-band satellites the constellation provides the Inmarsat-B and Inmarsat-C services, primarily providing low bandwidth communications and safety services for global shipping. Following privatization in 1999 Inmarsat developed and launched the first satellite communications system offering global coverage, BGAN. This service was provided initially through the three Inmarsat-4 satellite launched between 2005 and 2008, and was then extended with the addition of Alphasat in 2013. In the 2010s, Inmarsat began development of the High Throughput Satellite (HTS) constellation Global Xpress, operating in the Ka-band portion of the spectrum. Global Xpress, launched in 2015, offers global satellite capacity to various markets including shipping and aviation. Global Xpress also marks a significant expansion of Inmarsat's commercial operations in the aviation markets. In 2017, Inmarsat launched its first S-band satellite, intended to provide (in association with an LTE ground network) inflight internet access across Europe. In March 2018, Inmarsat partnered with Isotropic Systems to develop a state-of-the-art, all electronic scanning antenna intended to be used with the Global Xpress network.
On 20 September 2018, Inmarsat announced its strategic collaboration with Panasonic Avionics Corporation for an initial ten-year period, to provide in-flight broadband for commercial airlines. Inmarsat will be the exclusive provider of Panasonic for connectivity using the Ka-band satellite signal. Inmarsat will now be offering Panasonic's portfolio of services to its commercial aviation customers.
In March 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared with 239 passengers and crew en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. After turning away from its planned path and disappearing from radar coverage, the aircraft's satellite data unit remained in contact with Inmarsat's ground station in Perth via the IOR satellite (Indian Ocean Region, 64° East). The aircraft used Inmarsat's Classic Aero satellite phone service. Analysis of these communications by Inmarsat and independently by other agencies determined that the aircraft flew into the southern Indian Ocean and was used to guide the search for the aircraft.
In March 2019 the company's board agreed to recommend a takeover offer of US$3.4 billion from Connect Bidco, a consortium consisting of Apax Partners, Warburg Pincus, the CPP Investment Board and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. On 9 October 2019, Bloomberg reported that the U.K. government was set to approve the takeover with the final consultation for the deal set to conclude on 24 October 2019. In November 2019, Inmarsat rejected an eleventh-hour effort to derail the US$6 billion sale, in which it was accused of ignoring a potential boost to the company's value. Oaktree argued that the recommended offer for Inmarsat failed to take account of the potential value of spectrum assets used by Inmarsat's U.S. partner Ligado. Inmarsat delisted from London Stock Exchange, as the private equity funds took control of the company, on 5 December 2019; at the time, Inmarsat was operating 14 geostationary communications satellites.
On 8 November 2021, a $7.3bn deal was announced between Inmarsat's owners, led by Apax and Warburg Pincus, and Viasat in which Viasat would purchase Inmarsat for $850m in cash, issuing approximately 46 million shares of Viasat stock and taking on $3.4bn in debt. Viasat has promised to honour a pledge made by the previous owners, when it was taken private in 2019, that Inmarsat would remain a UK-based company, and for other planned investments.
The Inmarsat head office is at Old Street Roundabout in the London Borough of Islington. Aside from its commercial services, Inmarsat provides Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) to ships and aircraft at no charge, as a public service.
Services include traditional voice calls, low-level data tracking systems, and high-speed Internet and other data services as well as distress and safety services. The Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) network provides General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) - type services at up to 800 kbit/s at a latency of 900-1100 ms via an Internet Protocol (IP) satellite modem the size of a notebook computer, while the Global Xpress network offers up to 50 Mbit/s at a latency of 700 ms via antennas as small as 60 cm. Other services provide mobile Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) services used by the media for live reporting on world events via videophone, and inflight Internet access via the European Aviation Network.
The price of a call via Inmarsat has now dropped to a level where they are comparable to, and in many cases lower than, international roaming costs, or hotel phone calls. Voice call charges are the same for any location in the world where the service is used. Tariffs for calls to Inmarsat country codes vary, depending on the country in which they are placed. Inmarsat primarily uses country code 870 (see below). Newer Inmarsat services use an IP technology that features an always-on capability where the users are only charged for the amount of data they send and receive, rather than the length of time they are connected. In addition to its own satellites, Inmarsat has a collaboration agreement with ACeS regarding handheld voice services.
Each satellite is equipped with a single global beam that covers up to one-third of the Earth's surface, apart from the poles. Overall, global beam coverage extends from latitudes of −82 to +82° regardless of longitude.
Each regional beam covers a fraction of the area covered by a global beam, but collectively all of the regional beams offer virtually the same coverage as the global beams. Use of regional beams allow user terminals (also called mobile earth stations) to operate with significantly smaller antennas. Regional beams were introduced with the I-3 satellites. Each I-3 satellite provides four to six spot beams; each I-4 satellite provides 19 regional beams.
Narrow beams are offered by the three Inmarsat-4 satellites. Narrow beams vary in size, tend to be several hundred kilometres across. The narrow beams, while much smaller than the global or regional beams, are far more numerous and hence offer the same global coverage. Narrow spot beams allow yet smaller antennas and much higher data rates. They form the backbone of Inmarsat's handheld (GSPS) and broadband services (BGAN). This coverage was introduced with the I-4 satellites. Each I-4 satellite provides around 200 narrow spot beams.
The Inmarsat I-5 satellites provide global coverage using four geostationary satellites. Each satellite supports 89 beams, giving a total coverage of approximately one-third of the Earth's surface per satellite. In addition, 6 steerable beams are available per satellite, which may be moved to provide higher capacity to selected locations.
On 26 November 2019, the first satellite to extend the original 4 satellite first generation Global Xpress constellation was launched from Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG) by an Ariane 5 launch vehicle.
|Satellite||Coverage||Longitude||Vehicles||Launch date (UTC)||Services / notes|
|Marisat F1||Delta 2914||19 February 1976||Decommissioned 1997|
|Marisat F2||Delta 2914||14 October 1976||Transferred to Intelsat in 2004, decommissioned in 2008|
|Marisat F3||Delta 2914||10 June 1976||Decommissioned|
|MARECS-A||Ariane 1||20 December 1981|
|MARECS-B||Ariane 1||9 September 1982||Launch failure|
|MARECS-C||Ariane 3||10 November 1984|
|Inmarsat-2 F1||Delta II 6925||30 October 1990||Decommissioned 19 April 2013|
Previous record holder for mission lifespan
|Inmarsat-2 F2||Delta II 6925||8 March 1991||Decommissioned in December 2014|
World record for mission lifespan
|Inmarsat-2 F3||Ariane 44L||16 December 1991||Decommissioned 2006|
|Inmarsat-2 F4||Ariane 44L||15 April 1992||Decommissioned 2012|
|Inmarsat-3 F1||Atlas IIA||3 April 1996||Reassigned to Maritime safety backup service in 2020|
|Inmarsat-3 F2||Proton-K/DM1||6 September 1996||Reassigned to Maritime safety backup service in 2019|
|Inmarsat-3 F3||178° East||Atlas IIA||18 December 1996||Existing and evolved services only|
|Inmarsat-3 F4||Ariane 44L||3 June 1997||Decommissioned 2016|
|Inmarsat-3 F5||AOR||54° West||Ariane 44LP||4 February 1998||Various leases|
|Inmarsat-4 F1||APAC||143.5° East||Atlas V 431||11 March 2005||BGAN family, SPS and lease services|
|Inmarsat-4 F2||IOR||64° East||Zenit-3SL||8 November 2005||BGAN family, SPS and lease services, FleetBroadband, SwiftBroadband
Transferred from 25° East to 63° East in mid-2015 
|Inmarsat-4 F3||AMER||98° West||Proton-M / Briz-M||18 August 2008||BGAN family and lease services|
|Inmarsat-4A F4 (AlphaSat) ||EMEA||25° East||Ariane 5ECA||25 July 2013||BGAN family, SPS and lease services|
|Inmarsat-5 (GX) series |
|Inmarsat-5 F1 (GX-1) ||I-5 Europe, Middle East, Africa||62.6° East||Proton-M / Briz-M||8 December 2013||Ka-Band global data services, Global Xpress|
|Inmarsat-5 F2 (GX-2) ||I-5 Americas||55° West||Proton-M / Briz-M||2 February 2015||Ka-Band global data services, Global Xpress|
|Inmarsat-5 F3 (GX-3) ||I-5 Pacific, Asia, West Americas||179.6° East||Proton-M / Briz-M||28 August 2015||Ka-Band global data services, Global Xpress|
|Inmarsat-5 F4 (GX-4) ||I-5 Europe + in-orbit spare||56.5° East||Falcon 9 Full Thrust||15 May 2017 ||Ka-Band global data services, Global Xpress|
|Inmarsat-5 F5 (GX-5)||Europe and Middle East||11° East||Ariane 5ECA||26 November 2019 ||Ka-Band global data services, higher capacity GX satellite after the 4 first generation satellites|
|European Aviation Network|
|Inmarsat S EAN (Hellas Sat 3)||Europe||39° East||Ariane 5||28 June 2017||S-band services for European aviation|
|Inmarsat-6 F1||HIIA F45||22 December 2021|
The 870 number is an automatic locator; it is not necessary to know to which satellite the destination Inmarsat terminal is logged-in. SNAC is now usable by all Inmarsat services.
Country codes phased out on 31 December 2008 were
Since 18 July 2017, Inmarsat users using the service provided by China Transport Telecommunication & Information Center may apply for 11 digits Chinese mobile phone numbers starting with 1749. An international call function is not required when making phone calls to such numbers from Mainland China.
Inmarsat has developed a series of networks providing certain sets of services (most networks support multiple services). They are grouped into two sets, existing and evolved services, and advanced services. Existing and evolved services are offered through land Earth stations which are not owned nor operated by Inmarsat, but through companies which have a commercial agreement with Inmarsat. Advanced services are provided via distribution partners but the satellite gateways are owned and operated by Inmarsat directly.
The "BGAN Family" is a set of IP-based shared-carrier services, as follows:
The "BGAN M2M Family" is a set of IP-based services designed for long-term machine-to-machine management of fixed assets, as follows:
The company offers portable and fixed phone services as follows:
They are based on older technologies, as follows:
On 30 June 2008, the European Parliament and the European Council adopted the European's Decision to establish a single selection and authorisation process (ESAP – European S-band Application Process) to ensure a coordinated introduction of mobile satellite services (MSS) in Europe. The selection process was launched in August 2008 and attracted four applications by prospective operators (ICO Global Communications (ICO), Inmarsat, Solaris Mobile (now EchoStar Mobile), and TerreStar).
In May 2009, the European Commission selected two operators, Inmarsat Ventures and Solaris Mobile, giving these operators "the right to use the specific radio frequencies identified in the Commission's decision and the right to operate their respective mobile satellite systems". EU Member States now have to ensure that the two operators have the right to use the specific radio frequencies identified in the commission's decision and the right to operate their respective mobile satellite systems for 18 years from the selection decision. The operators are compelled to start operations within 24 months (May 2011) from the selection decision.
Inmarsat's S-band satellite programme will deliver mobile multimedia broadcast, mobile two-way broadband telecommunications and next-generation MSS services across all member states of the European Union and as far east as Moscow and Ankara by means of a hybrid satellite/terrestrial network. It was built by Thales Alenia Space and launched in 2017. The complementary ground network consists of around 300 LTE base stations constructed by Deutsche Telekom.
The European Aviation Network faces a number of legal challenges. This includes a challenge from Viasat alleging unfair bidding practices and a misuse of spectrum and a ruling by the Belgian telecommunications regulator revoking permission for the use of the ground network in Belgium.
Inmarsat ordered a fifth Global Xpress satellite from Thales Group. The satellite launched 26 November 2019 from Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG) aboard an Ariane 5 launch vehicle. The satellite has been described as a 'very high throughput satellite', and provides services to the Middle East, India and Europe. former CEO Rupert Pearce (new CEO Rajeev Suri) has also indicated that Inmarsat is planning further expansion of the Global Xpress network in the future. Trials of new technologies have demonstrated bandwidths of 330 Mbit/s over the existing Global Xpress network, far in excess of the currently marketed 50 Mbit/s.
Two high-capacity, multi-beam payloads GX-10A and GX-10B will be placed in Highly elliptical orbits (HEO) to ensure reliable coverage. Inmarsat is working in partnership with Space Norway HEOSAT in the Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission. The satellites carrying the Inmarsat payload plan to be manufactured by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (NGIS). Launch for GX-10A and 10B are scheduled for 2022.
At the end of 2015, Inmarsat ordered two sixth generation satellites from Airbus. These satellites will offer both Ka- and L-band payloads and will provide additional capacity to the existing BGAN and Global Xpress networks. In 2017, it was announced that the first of these satellites will be launched by MHI in December 2021.
Inmarsat is participating in two ESA ARTES programs, IRIS and ICE:
INMARSAT and Iridium frequency bands abut each other at 1626.5 MHz thus each satcom radio has the ability to interfere with the other. Usually, the far more powerful INMARSAT radio disrupts the Iridium radio up to 10–800 m (33–2,625 ft) away.
The first Inmarsat-6 spacecraft is scheduled for launch with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) at the end of 2021 with the second to follow in 2022.