Inmarsat ELERA to push L-band speeds to 1.7Mbps

Inmarsat has followed on from the announcement of its new ORCHESTRA hybrid VSAT/5G connectivity service by unveiling plans to enhance its L-band network, introducing new spectrum management technologies alongside its upcoming Inmarsat-6 satellites to deliver speeds of up to 1.7Mbps.

The new ELERA narrowband service will be aimed at mobility customers, including maritime, as well as providing support for a variety of Internet of Things (IoT) applications. 

The enhanced bandwidth speeds will be delivered using both its existing and upcoming satellite fleet through improvements to Inmarsat’s spectrum management capabilities, both at the high data end with carrier aggregation and at the low data end with new waveforms.

Inmarsat had already ordered two new I-6 dual-payload L-band and Ka-band satellites from Airbus, agreeing a $600 million deal in 2015. The first of these new satellites is scheduled to launch at the end of 2021, with both planned to provide commercial service by the second quarter of 2023.

The I-6 satellites will deliver 50% more capacity per beam, allowing more data to be carried over the same geographical area, and will offer greatly improved beam routing flexibility.

With the addition of new carrier aggregation capabilities alongside these new satellites, service users will be able to connect to multiple beams at once and access bandwidth speeds reaching up to 1.7Mbps on their L-band terminals.

“This gives extra flexibility for us to provision services as required to meet our customers’ future needs. And, this gives us the unique ability to control the number of channels and the size of the channels to improve the efficiencies in providing the required bandwidth,” Inmarsat told SMN, in a statement.

“With this additional capability, Inmarsat can make the most efficient use of its L-band bandwidth by allowing terminals to access more than one channel at a time, expanding the peak data rates supplied from a given satellite.”

The first ELERA customer trials will happen in 2022 in the aviation sector, before the product is rolled out to other industries over the next few years.

New antennas will be designed for use with the service, which will be built by partner value added manufacturers and type approved by the satellite operator, similar to all previous Inmarsat services. The company says that it also intends to offer a range of new technologies and tools to allow firms to more easily embed ELERA capabilities into their own products.

While new ELERA terminals are part of the roadmap, Inmarsat notes that existing FleetBroadband users will benefit from the enhancements being made to the L-band network. The company intends to work with its manufacturing partners to allow users to keep their current antenna installations and simply upgrade the below-deck electronics to get to higher speeds.

New smaller and lower profile safety terminals will also be introduced for the ELERA rollout, but with higher bandwidth speeds and the ability to connect to new applications that will provide additional functionality.

“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,” said Rajeev Suri, CEO, Inmarsat.

“We will be sharing further detail on these innovations with our partner community in the coming months and continue our programme of announcements as we achieve major milestones.”

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Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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