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432Kbps by 2004 says Inmarsat

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TMA Inmarsat is to boost the bandwidth its satellite communication network can give users with a $1.7 billion investment program.

The organisation's existing nine geo-stationary satellites provide a 64Kbps channel for voice and data communications to subscribers. This will be boosted to 432Kbps by 2004, creating what Inmarsat describes as a Broadband Global Area Network.

As an interim step, Europe and the Middle East will be able to get data-only communications at 144Kbps by November next year.

The build out in capacity will involve the placement of an additional three satellites in space as well as upgrades to Earth stations and Inmarsat's support infrastructure.

Inmarsat is aligning the boost in bandwidth with the arrival of 3G and talking up the utility and convenience of its services, while playing down the perception of the technology as being expensive and niche (though the firm is a bit vague about what its pricing really is).

Inmarsat services are getting a higher profile recently with live video reports from the war in Afghanistan arriving on our TV screens after being streamed over its satellite network. The firm's services are also used by government, the military, maritime users, in oil and gas exploration and by airlines to provide in-flight phone facilities.

Michael Butler, managing director of Inmarsat, said the perception that satellite communications was expensive came from the prices airlines charge passengers for phone calls, and this created misunderstanding of its position in the market.

He said Inmarsat wanted to make satellite communications more mainstream so that it was seen as a business communications medium which wasn't just for the elite.

These days Inmarsat is positioning itself as "a celestial extension to terrestrial fixed and mobile networks". Far out, man. ®

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