Insight | 2021: A year in review


2021: A year in review


From revolutionary new networks and the launch of the world’s most sophisticated commercial communications satellite, to welcoming new customers and partners across the globe, 2021 was a year of innovation and growth as we continued to meet the rising demand for connectivity against the backdrop of COVID-19. 

Technology leadership 

2021 started with a significant milestone: commercial service introduction of our GX5 satellite at the same time as we celebrated the fifth anniversary of our award-winning high-speed mobile Global Xpress Ka-band network.

Since 2016, Global Xpress has opened up access to a whole host of bandwidth-hungry solutions for our worldwide customers – from premium inflight passenger Wi-Fi to applications designed to enhance shipping fleets’ operational efficiency and meet governments’ mission-critical mobile MILSATCOM needs – and is the gold-standard across multiple industries.

The introduction of our fully funded technology roadmap and the appointment of new CEO, Rajeev Suri early in the year, focused our sights firmly on the future and cemented Inmarsat as a company with growing momentum and technology leadership. In December, the first of seven satellites planned for launch by 2024, I-6 F1, successfully launched from JAXA Tanegashima Space Centre. The world's largest and most sophisticated commercial communications satellite is set to deliver untold connectivity benefits to our ELERA and Global Xpress customers.


In July we unveiled Inmarsat ORCHESTRA, our communications network of the future to meet the growing connectivity needs of our mobility customers. This first-of-its-kind network will bring geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) satellites, low earth orbit (LEO) satellites, highly elliptical orbit (HEO) satellites and terrestrial 5G together into one seamless, high-performance solution.

This transformational mesh network will open up new possibilities for industries across the world from close-shore navigation for autonomous vessels and next-generation emergency safety services for maritime crews to secure and tactical private networks for governments and direct-to-cloud connections for airlines. Things continue to move at pace, with the first LEO satellite payload activated in December.


In August, we announced the transformation of our seamless, 99.95% reliable narrowband L-band network, Inmarsat ELERA. Designed to meet the needs of our mobility and government customers, ELERA is also ideally suited to support Internet of Things (IoT) applications and connect billions of devices across the globe.

ELERA’s unparalleled L-band speeds of up to 1.7Mbps and low-cost L-band terminals, underpinned by the Inmarsat-6 satellites, will result in new levels of operational efficiency and effectiveness. The network will support everything from worldwide maritime and aviation safety services, commercial UAVs and humanitarian missions to IoT applications across agritech, transportation and utilities.

New horizons

Inmarsat joined a new industry consortium developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) in May. Led by Telespazio, ‘Project Moonlight’ will explore the development of a telecommunications and navigation system to support future planned lunar missions.

In October, strategic partner BSNL received the necessary licenses to deliver our world-leading Global Xpress (GX) satellite communication services in India across maritime, aviation and government markets.  

And finally, in November, an agreement was signed for Viasat and Inmarsat, to combine to create a leading global communications innovator. With enhanced scale and scope to connect the world affordably, securely and reliably, the combination will be capable of delivering superior services in fast-growing commercial and government sectors.


Inmarsat’s Research Programme unveiled a range of maritime industry insights in 2021. In March, ‘Cyber Security requirements for IMO 2021’ provided support for owners, managers and captains around compliance requirements.

In August, ‘The future of maritime safety’ report analysed three years of global maritime distress call data to highlight true areas for concern and create a vision for shipping’s future safety that can be developed with technology at its core.

And in October, ‘A Changed World’ pinpointed the impact of COVID-19 in accelerating global shipping’s digital transformation and fast tracking of IoT solutions, recognising surging demand for crew connectivity and an uptake for other digital services needed to keep ships running.


New partners and innovation

There was also lots to celebrate through the year, with the announcment of the 10,000th Fleet Xpress ship installation and simultaneousl launch of a new ‘Fleet Data Academy’. The academy was formed with existing partners, shipowners and operators to support the understanding and adoption of digital applications that are making the maritime industry safer, greener and more efficient.

Other key partnerships came in the form of new Certified Application Provider (CAP) programme partners, including OneOcean and We4Sea.

September saw an industry first, as a partnership with Lloyd’s Register was formed, leading to a new solution using LR Remote to enable remote inspection onboard vessels, without the need to access the vessel’s connectivity network. Crew members can now livestream video, photos and audio onboard a ship to an LR technical specialist located elsewhere all powered by Inmarsat’s Fleet Connect service.

In November, Inmarsat Maritime took a big step forward for over-the-horizon uncrewed vessel control, when it installed a new connectivity solution using virtualised networks on the SEA-KIT International uncrewed surface vessel (USV) Maxlimer. This enables the vessel to connect to the best available network at all times by switching as necessary between Fleet LTE, Global Xpress (GX) and FleetBroadband satellite services when out of range.


The aviation industry started the year with plenty of optimism, and Inmarsat Aviation made an exciting announcement about participating in Project HEART (Hydrogen Electric and Automated Regional Transportation), a ground-breaking new initiative funded by the UK Government to develop the country’s first automated, zero carbon regional air transportation network.

Our airline customers brought hopes of a strong recovery too, as Qatar Airways conducted the world’s first fully vaccinated flight powered by GX Aviation. British Airways also enabled an ITV television broadcast via our European Aviation Network (EAN) onboard, sharing a journalist’s experience of the UK’s first flight to green-listed Portugal, helping to give passengers the confidence to return to the air.


The focus on recovery didn’t end there either, as we gathered industry experts again for two more FlightPlan broadcast events, focused on rebuilding the industry. The first based around C-Suite Week, included five of the world’s biggest aviation names, who were interviewed by leading BBC World News reporter Aaron Heslehurst. The second was conducted in person for the first time at the APEX EXPO event in California, saw the highest ratio of airline attendees ever, emphasising their commitment to a strong recovery.

Good Morning Britain live broadcast

Passenger confidence

September saw the release of the most up-to-date Passenger Confidence Tracker 2021 research since the pandemic began. The survey questioned over 10,000 passengers worldwide and indicated that passenger confidence was rising and that airline reputation was more important than ever, as was connectivity.

In support of these positive indications of recovery and market demand, we launched OneFi, a game-changing new customer experience platform for airlines to monetise inflight connectivity and attract ancillary income.

Ground-breaking solutions

In August, trials outside Europe began for the first time on Iris, our ground-breaking air traffic modernisation solution, powered by ELERA. This forms part of the Boeing ecoDemonstrator programme, which aims to enhance the sustainability and safety of air travel by testing the world’s most promising technologies.

We launched Velaris, the advanced connectivity solution to enable communications for commercial UAVs to fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and seamlessly integrate with aircraft in commercial airspace.

Jet Connex celebrated its 1,000th installation and activation; Saudi Arabia’s national airline, SAUDIA selected GX Aviation for its upcoming fleet; and the year ended on a high with Inmarsat Aviation winning ‘World’s Best Inflight internet Service Provider’ for the fifth consecutive year at the World Travel Tech Awards 2021.


Innovations in space

A new collaboration between Inmarsat, Analytical Space (ASI) and Addvalue Innovation in January saw the roll out ASI’s Fast Pixel Network™, a data transport LEO satellite network that could talk to our GEO satellites through Addvalue's Intersatellite Data Relay System (IDRS) technology. The result: consistent real-time telemetry, tracking and control for commercial and government customers.

In March, the UK Space Agency awarded Inmarsat a National Space Innovation Programme (NSIP) contract to develop an in-orbit telemetry relay service for rockets, called “InRange”. Working with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Safran Data Systems and Haigh-Farr Inc, it will reduce the dependency of space launch providers on traditional, expensive ground-based monitoring systems infrastructure for their rockets by using L-band satellite network.

In April, the European Space Agency (ESA) awarded a three-year contract to a consortium, including Inmarsat, SINTEF and Geonor to provide a new government grade IoT solution that can provide early life-saving warnings in the event of a natural disaster, even in the most remote locations.

L-R: President Global Government Inmarsat Todd McDonell and Commander Defence Strategic Communications Brigadier Gregory Novak at the Defence Network Operations Centre, HMAS Harman, Australian Capital Territory

The first UK-generated satnav signal

In December, an ESA-funded project saw us working alongside Goonhilly Earth Station and GMVNSL to deliver the first UK-generated satellite navigation (satnav) signal. The project provides a potential platform for the UK to enhance its capabilities in the Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) domain post-Brexit.

The year also saw Inmarsat sign an AUS$221m contract extension with the Australian Defence Force until 2027, and open a state of the art, new fully Managed Services facility to support the Armed Forces in Canada.


March saw the launch of a new Application and Solution Provider (ASP) Programme for Inmarsat Enterprise to drive IoT adoption through satellite connectivity across commercial land markets. The ASP Programme is an ecosystem for providers of software and hardware solutions, as well as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to gain access to our global satellite connectivity and regional presence to scale their solutions into new sectors and geographies.

In a further IoT solution development, Skylo, a satellite-based narrow-band (NB) IoT solution company announced a key partnership with us in June to provide the satellite capacity backbone to deliver its IoT solutions for connecting machines and sensors in remote areas, across oceans, and in dense metropolitan areas.

The rise of IoT 

A new research report was published in September - Industrial IoT in the Time of Covid-19 - which identified an acceleration of adoption of IoT in response to the pandemic  across global supply chains in agriculture, electrical utilities, mining, oil and gas, and transport and logistics.

In August, a collaboration between Inmarsat, Atlantic Bridge and Civic Connect saw the launch of “Insight Terra”, a new entity designed to respond to the risk management and environmental monitoring needs of mining organisations worldwide, ensuring more efficient, safe and sustainable operations.

In October, ELERA IoT was launched - a platform of IoT connectivity services, solutions and ecosystems built on the connectivity backbone of Inmarsat ELERA, the world’s most reliable network for IoT and secure narrowband connectivity.

Later that same month, a deal was signed with Hiber, an IoT-as-a-service scaleup. The new contract will see our ELERA network used to power its IoT-as-a-service ecosystem that provides easy-to-use, low power and cost-effective IoT solutions and services to transport, logistics, agriculture, mining and other industries worldwide.

ASP partner Harvest Technology