Inmarsat-4 F2 lifts off: Inmarsat's satellite-based broadband communications system is two-thirds complete. The spring launch of F1 covered Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the Indian Ocean. Today's launch from the Sea Launch platform near the equator adds South America, most of North America, the Atlantic Ocean, and parts of the Pacific. That leaves a large unserved overseas swath for Asia-Pacific flights and maritime activities, but it's probably the least dense area for the broadband service Inmarsat will deliver.
The birds require shakedown time, and services will lag launches by many months. The first service to launch will be Broadband Global Area Network or BGAN, offering broadband speeds with a portable terminal anywhere within the coverage range of the satellites. The system uses spot and broader focus beams that can be repointed where capacity requires.
For in-flight purposes, OnAir, the joint venture of Airbus, SITA, and the former Tenzing will deploy using this service late next year to bring roughly 500 Kbps to 2 Mbps of symmetrical, guaranteed-per-plane service. The aeronautical service on the satellites will come online later than terrestrial. And the launch next year of the third satellite means that early service will focus on European overwater routes to the US and overland to Asia and down south to other continents.