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Inmarsat tests 5G LEO satellite as it tunes up its Orchestra

Yasrine Ibnyahya Inmarsat.jpg

Inmarsat says it has successfully activated a trial payload for its planned 5G satellite project, Orchestra.

The company is coy about giving details, but says this was the successful demonstration of a low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite payload.

Yasrine Ibnyahya (pictured), Inmarsat’s senior director of advanced concepts and technologies, said: “Our demonstration LEO satellite payload is designed to create new technologies and services that will transform the use of satellite communications by our mobility and government customers worldwide.”

Inmarsat, which is planning a merger with US company Viasat, announced Orchestra in July 2021, saying it will be a combined terrestrial and in-orbit 5G network aimed at high-density users and the maritime market.

Inmarsat said at the time it plans to spend around US$100 million over the next five years on a dynamic mesh network, which it is calling Orchestra. It will combine terrestrial services with low Earth orbit (LEO) and geosynchronous (GEO) satellites.

CEO Rajeev Suri said in July that the company’s LEO constellation will be “in the range of 150-175 satellites”.

Now a company spokesperson said that “the LEO satellite is testing new concepts and system configurations for Orchestra’s proposed LEO constellation, which will seamlessly integrate with geosynchronous orbit (GEO) and highly elliptical orbit (HEO) satellites, and a terrestrial 5G network, to deliver a uniquely powerful global communications solution for mobility and government customers”.

Inmarsat said that the “details of the in-orbit testing remain confidential”. In a carefully worded statement it said: “As the LEO satellite features a reprogrammable payload, additional concepts will be tested over the coming months.”

But Ibnyahya said: “Using software defined radio payloads in LEO, we are able to test, refine, retest and validate as many concepts as we need. It is a quick, agile and highly economic approach that enables us to meet our ambitious targets for rolling out key components for Inmarsat Orchestra.”

Suri said yesterday: “Customers have expressed great excitement about Inmarsat’s Orchestra network and we are making fast progress to bring that network to reality. Development of the terrestrial network is proceeding well and we are now moving forward with live tests of Orchestra’s LEO layer.”

He added: “Our vision for Orchestra is a network that uses the right technology for the right purpose. We are not beholden to a single approach and believe that the best way to meet customer needs is a multidimensional approach that includes GEO, LEO and terrestrial 5G in a dynamic mesh that brings capacity to where it is needed in the most efficient way possible.”

 

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