This week at MilSatCom, a forum for strategic satellite communications for national defence & security, held in Dubai, Inmarsat detailed the increased availability of mobile tactical Beyond-Line of Sight (BLOS) communications to new government users.
While the firm currently owns and operates 10 spacecraft - and provides services on 50 others - there are plans to launch AlphaSat this summer, giving improved bandwidth capacity for mobile communications.
This will particularly benefit the Middle East as another satellite will be freed up to serve the EMEA region. Satellite number 12 will be launched around late December in order to supply super-fast connection speeds, estimated at 5 Mbits/s up and 50 Mbits/s down.
"The key emerging theme within the land domain is the digitised solider," explains Andy Start, President of Inmarsat's Global Government division. "This concept is the 'future soldier' that has real-time access to video cameras recording what he's doing, mapping data that shows where he is and where the enemy are, and health data - monitoring his personal health."
The digital soldier is here
While these sorts of capabilities have been long-considered as the next generation of warfare, they are now starting to be deployed in modern militaries around the world. This drives a massive requirement for satellite communications.
"What militaries need, in a perfect world, is infinite bandwidth with no size and no cost. While we're not quite there yet, we're certainly heading very rapidly in that direction," explains Start.
Predator drones are one such new technology that are completely depending on BLOS technology.
Inmarsat's antennae technology not only enable control and communications for UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), but can service armed units of all shapes and sizes.
Dome antennae for military vehicles act as mobile hotspots and can even provide real time video. Attached to a GSM peaker cell they also extend communications to personal phones or tablet, up to a range of around 1km - completely bypassing hard networks or local carriers. While that's not 'infinite bandwidth', it translates to very usable broadband anywhere in the world.
Handheld satellite phones now cost less than an iPhone and certainly cost less to use than roaming charges with a cell phone due to Inmarsat's BGAN (broadband global area network). Military solutions are quickly becoming more portable and affordable.
Similar capabilities are available for sea ships and aircraft - over 100 nations around the world are investing in these capabilities, Start tells AMEinfo.
The company this week also announced its plan to launch L-TAC, a new L-band service, which will deliver a 'UHF-like' tactical satellite capability for use with existing UHF tactical radios.
The UAE signed defence contracts worth $1.4bn at IDEX last week. The largest deal was for 750 mine/IED resistant all-terrain vehicles from Oshkosh Group ($380m), followed by the purchase of an undisclosed number of Predator drone from US firm General Atomics ($197m).