Inmarsat opens platform to help PH companies develop space technologies

By Edd K. Usman

Philippine companies aspiring to join the development of space technology now have an opportunity to learn about it by helping create applications for Inmarsat.

Inmarsat CTO Michele Franci. (Credit: Inmarsat).

Inmarsat CTO Michele Franci

The British company established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is now positioned as “the world’s leading provider of global mobile satellite telecommunications.”

Interested space tech-savvy Filipinos will be able to test the waters, so to speak, as the satellite telecommunications company will be conducting the Inmarsat World Conference (IWC) on Nov. 6-8, 2017 at the Lisbon Congress Center, Lisbon, Portugal, during which they can interact and learn from Inmarsat software solutions developers.

“We are gathering the very best talent from Inmarsat’s ecosystem at the Inmarsat World Conference,” said the company’s chief technology officer (CTO), Michele Franci, in an interview via email.

More than 1,000 developers will be around together for the first time, including those from sales to software developers, equipment manufacturers to regulators, component to solution suppliers, including hand-picked customers who provide the challenges that shape the satellite industry.

“It is an opportunity for this close-knit group to share latest developments, listen and exchange insights on industry trends shaping the satellite industry to innovate and create-satellite enabled solutions,” said Franci.

Inmarsat is encouraging other companies to participate in the three-day event and get the chance to discover the commercial opportunities that are emerging because of the “mainstreaming” of space-based communications.

The IWC will showcase some of the early developments in the creation of new applications for space-based communications.

As this developed, Franci revealed that among their recent customers for the OnAir by SITA (SITAONAIR) is the country’s flag carrier, Philippine Airlines (PAL).

SITAONAIR activates Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) Aviation on board PAL to realize its “global high-speed connected passenger experience ambitions a reality.”

PAL executives have confirmed this as the flag carrier upgrades its wireless in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) product OnAir Play to be fitted on all its long haul fleet, such as Boeing B777.

The airline is using Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband which will be upgraded to the GX Aviation powered by Honeywell’s JetWave SATCOM terminal, with the first to be fitted the aircraft to arrive in December 2017.

“Philippine Airlines is absolutely focused on delivering the best-possible passenger experience, driving towards our goal of becoming a full-service five-star carrier. PAL is at the forefront of the connected aircraft revolution,” said PAL president and COO Jaime J. Bautista.

Franci revealed the company has also been pouring huge investment in the creation of software and hardware toolkits crafted to enable developers to integrate satellite capabilities into their solutions.

“Given the growing need for ubiquitous connectivity, we are expecting more developers to start building hybrid connectivity solutions that include satellite services. In this respect, Inmarsat has been working with organizations as well as start-ups to improve communications in industries, including agriculture, energy, mining, transport, and fishing,” he added.

He revealed that the maritime and aviation sectors is his company’s largest commercial areas of activity in Asia Pacific and the Philippines.

But it’s not all about commerce.

“We are also active in providing humanitarian and relief services across the region,” Franci said, recalling Inmarsat and Telecoms Sans Frontieres (TSF) supported the 3rd Quarter Nationwide Simultaneous Earthquake Drill (NSED) of the Philippines in September this year.

Unknown to many Filipinos, during the earthquake drill, Inmarsat deployed its Global Xpress (GX) service, “the world’s first, globally available high-speed broadband network delivered by a single operator.”

The company also provided “out-of-the-box” Wi-Fi hotspots purposely created for use by the emergency response teams and used Inmarsat’s BGAN service.

BGAN is now being used worldwide for mission critical and emergency communications, an L-band network with availability surpassing 99.9 percent. This means that connectivity is a certainty wherever operations are based and in whatever conditions.

“In maritime, thousands of vessels rely on our unrivaled end-to-end service availability and coverage for operation communications and safety services,” Franci said, citing, among others, their Fleet Xpress, the company’s combined Ka-band and L-band service which enables ships’ crew to call home as well as access broadband internet to send emails, share photos, and access social networks without interrupting operational communications.

The Inmarsat CTO said his company is the leading provider of satellite communications to airlines, operators and passengers, keeping them in touch from 35,000 feet up in the air with people on the ground.

“Inmarsat provides the ultimate in-flight connectivity experience for the entire aircraft, from voice and safety communications in the cockpit to high-speed to reliable broadband in the cabin.”

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