Three new Inmarsat 4 communications satellites will provide global broadband Internet access to mobile users for the first time.
The first satellite, launched March 10, will cover most of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The second, planned for summer 2005 launch, will cover South America, most of North America, the Atlantic Ocean and part of the Pacific Ocean.
The new Broadband Global Area Network service will provide telephony, data and high-speed Internet access for laptop and palm-sized terminals at speeds up to 1 Mbps. This will enable business travellers, disaster relief workers, journalists, etc. to operate a virtual office anywhere in the satellite footprint, including maritime or air routes.
For faster access, on-board digital signal processors will route the signals to and from the satellite's different beams, acting like a switchboard in the sky: any uplinked signal can be routed to any mobile downlink beam and vice versa.
The satellites are designed and built by EADS Astrium, Europe's leading satellite manufacturer.