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Inmarsat Plans Boost to In-Flight Broadband Across Europe

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Satellite operator, Inmarsat has announced plans to deliver aviation passenger connectivity services on a European wide basis. To achieve this, Inmarsat has placed an order for a new S band satellite, to be called Europasat, and expects to complement this satellite with a fully integrated air to ground network across the European Union.

Inmarsat's new aviation network will deliver high speed broadband services to commercial and business aviation passengers. These capabilities will be offered alongside Inmarsat's Global Xpress aviation services.

Rupert Pearce, Inmarsat's CEO commented, "North America has seen rapid take-up of in-flight passenger connectivity services, with installation and usage both growing very quickly."

"We believe that the same in-flight connectivity opportunity exists in Europe and that, with the support of EU telecoms regulators, Inmarsat can rapidly bring to market unique, high speed aviation passenger connectivity services to meet this market demand on an EU-wide basis.

He added that the company is already in advanced discussions with British Airways to be a launch customer for the new service.

To reduce initial programme costs, Inmarsat and Hellas-Sat, a non-competing European satellite operator, have contracted with Thales Alenia Space for the construction of a satellite on a shared basis such that each partner will retain exclusive rights to a separate payload. Inmarsat's S-band payload will be called Europasat and the satellite is expected to be delivered for launch at the end of 2016. As a result of the shared payload agreement, Inmarsat's costs for the manufacture, launch, insurance and operations of Europasat are expected to be approximately $200m or half of what it would have cost to deploy an S-band satellite on a stand-alone basis. The majority of the expected cost will be incurred over a 3-year period.

The aviation network deployment will be enabled by Inmarsat's existing authorisation to operate integrated satellite/terrestrial communications services in 30MHz of S-band frequencies across the 28 Member States of the EU.

Further investment in the development and construction of the complementary ground component network across the EU, fully integrated with the Europasat satellite, will follow the progression of national level licence approvals and the signing of substantive customer commitments. The total cost to Inmarsat of the further ground network development programme and service deployment is estimated at $200m to $250m and would be incurred over the next six years. In addition to aviation services, Inmarsat expects Europasat to support next generation emergency network services for public protection and disaster relief.

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