Say hello to the next generation of L-band satellite connectivity. Inmarsat ELERA, unveiled this week, promises a dramatic increase in bandwidth, smaller terminals, and lower costs for the narrow-band market.
ELERA is the exciting vision of how Inmarsat is planning to transform the capabilities offered to IoT and mobility customers for years to come and confirms our long-term commitment to L-band services.– Rajeev Suri, CEO, Inmarsat
The company previously disclosed plans to upgrade the L-band satellite network as part of its 6th generation I-6 satellites; the first is slated to launch by the end of the year. With the new hardware in service Inmarsat promises speeds up to 1.7 Mbps, a dramatic improvement over the typical 432 kbps per channel offered on the current generation of Inmarsat’s L-Band service.
Primary competitor Iridium offers speeds of 704 kbps today and claims a capability to double that, “dependent on market demand.” Even if Iridium makes that move it would still lag the upper end of the new Inmarsat offering.
The Iridium constellation also offers full global coverage, including polar, thanks to its LEO architecture. With the GEO satellites Inmarsat dos not offer polar coverage, though company CTO Peter Hadinger acknowledges Inmarsat is “looking at alternatives for how to provide L-band to the poles.”
A mix of technologies
Supporting the improved performance on the Elera platform requires a combination of technology upgrades for the company. Core to the shift is improvements in the network infrastructure. Upgrades to the satellite gateways provide the technology to handle both the upper and lower ends of the performance boost.
Beyond that, the terminals get a boost. More recent hardware might get away with just a firmware upgrade. Older models may need upgrades to some physical subcomponents inside.
The antenna does not change, however. And given the challenges in certifications and getting it installed on aircraft that’s a major win.
The final major component, the spacecraft, do and don’t change. Elera will run just fine on the existing I-4 constellation. But when the I-6 satellites show up they change the performance dynamics. The new birds offer more efficient frequency reuse and an expanded frequency range. Combined, these changes deliver significantly more spectrum to accommodate the higher speeds.
The company anticipates delivery of 50% more capacity per beam. Much more data can be carried over the same geographical area, in addition to unlimited beam routing flexibility.
Live customer trials in commercial aviation are scheduled to start in 2022.
A major aero market expansion
The improved top speed of the service open opportunities for consumer-focused consumption on smaller jets where JetConneX (or other broadband) services are too heavy an investment. But a major focus for market expansion looks to be a much lighter weight side of the product.
There’s more to the story…Dig deeper with a PaxEx.Aero Premium Subscription
A favor to ask while you're here...
Did you enjoy the content? Or learn something useful? Or generally just think this is the type of story you'd like to see more of? Consider supporting the site through a donation (any amount helps). It helps keep me independent and avoiding the credit card schlock.