An agreement signed by ESA and Inmarsat brings the reality of reliable mobile
broadband communications services a step closer. For the first time, global
mobile broadband services will be available for those at sea, in a plane or
travelling on land virtually anywhere in the world.

This agreement marks the first collaboration between ESA and Inmarsat on system
engineering activities and will extend the capabilities of the new Broadband
Global Area Network System (BGAN) to be offered by the Inmarsat I-4 satellite

Following the launch of the first of the fourth generation Inmarsat satellites
in 2004, BGAN is expected to become operational for land services in 2005. BGAN
is designed to meet the growing demand from business and private users for
high-speed internet access and multimedia connectivity, and a wide range of
tele-services, including tele-working and distance learning. Applications will
include internet and intranet access, video on demand, web TV,
videoconferencing, fax, email and LAN access at speeds of up to 432 kbit/s to
notebook-sized terminals almost anywhere in the world.

This BGAN extension project will establish the specification and definition for
directional as well as omni-directional BGAN platforms and services for
maritime, aeronautical and land mobile applications. Definitions for the land
portable BGAN platform are already in place, but the technical challenges of
developing service specifications for truly mobile platforms are considerable,
and need to address issues such as availability and quality of service under
mobility and propagation dynamics.

The BGAN system has been designed to support point-to-point telecommunication
services on portable and semi-fixed land mobile platforms with low to medium
gain directional non-tracking antennas. The project also aims to diversify the
BGAN service portfolio by the development of multicast service capability,
thereby exploiting the natural satellite strength in delivering multicast
services at the global level.

The BGAN system will be compatible with third-generation (3G) cellular
terrestrial systems. The project will adopt an ‘Open Standards’ approach and the
results will be presented in a number of standardisation forums including ITU,
ETSI and IETF, to encourage wide industrial participation.

Under the terms of the agreement, ESA has agreed to fund 50% of the project and
to provide technical support.

Work begins

Now that the agreement has been signed, work will begin on assessing the
suitability of the present baseline BGAN system to provide the services required
and making any modifications necessary. The key challenges are: to develop the
new user terminals, perform the required modifications to the baseline BGAN
system in order to support the new platforms, to develop a multicast system
architecture and to establish protocols that can meet multicast service
requirements while complying with the constraints imposed by the BGAN system

A number of companies, apart from Inmarsat, will be involved in this agreement.
EMS Satcom Ltd. (UK) is in charge of developing the aeronautical mobile
platforms, Logica CMG (UK) will mainly be involved on multicast service-centre
development, and the Norwegian company NERA ASA will be responsible for
developing maritime platforms. In addition, the University of Surrey (UK) will
also be working on the BGAN multicast performance analysis.

Said Claudio Mastracci, Director of Applications at ESA: “This award reflects
the value that the European Space Agency sees in Inmarsat BGAN, a crucial and
highly advanced future mobile satellite service. This investment, under the
ESA’s Mobility programme line, will help European mobile satellite services
retain a position of global strength. The specification work to be carried out
under this award is a crucial foundation for advanced commercial applications
that will further the reputation of the European satellite communications industry.”

Gene Jilg, VP of Advance Programmes at Inmarsat, said of the agreement: “The
size of the ESA’s strategic investment in the BGAN extension project is
testament to the value Inmarsat’s BGAN service will bring to both the European
satellite and communications industry, and to European businesses more
generally. We are delighted to have secured this award through ESA, which will
help us to extend the benefits of BGAN to a wide scope of industries and

Related links

* ESA Telecom
* BGAN project page
* Inmarsat project page
* Inmarsat website

The capabilities of the new Broadband Global Areas Network System (BGAN) will be
extended by the fourth generation of Inmarsat satellites I-4. An agreement
signed by ESA and Inmarsat on 15 December 2003 will use the I-4 satellites to
extend the capabilities of the BGAN system. This will make global mobile
braodaband services available to those at sea, in planes or travelling on land
virtually anywhere in the world.

Credits: Inmarsat