Rebecca Cowen-Hirsch, senior vice president of Government Policy & Strategy at Inmarsat, took part in her first Executive Spotlight interview with ExecutiveBiz to discuss the impact of developing global networks with the use of 5G and IoT capabilities, the challenges of emerging in the current space technology market, Inmarsat’s growth strategies and more.
“We started as a global maritime distress and safety services company, which is still the basis for our entire ethos. That means all of our services and capabilities are provided via constellations with worldwide coverage and from our networks designed for very high reliability and availability for the mobile user. That is our heritage and our foundation; that is who we are as a company.”
You can read the full Executive Spotlight with Rebecca Cowen-Hirsch below:
ExecutiveBiz: Very recently, Inmarsat announced ORCHESTRA and ELERA to continue developing global networks with the use of 5G and IoT capabilities. What else can you tell us about the impact these will have on the latest global mobility challenges, for greater mission-critical connectivity and how it will work to benefit your customers?
“First and foremost, an important thing to note is how these launches are grounded in more than 40 years of history in solid trusted global mobile capabilities provided to our commercial and government customers.
We started as a global maritime distress and safety services company, which is still the basis for our entire ethos. That means all of our services and capabilities are provided via constellations with worldwide coverage and from our networks designed for very high reliability and availability for the mobile user.
That is our heritage and our foundation; that is who we are as a company. From there, we have two very active, vibrant, fully funded and strong overarching networks in orbit today with services delivered worldwide: the ELERA L-band network, which is where we started, with very high availability and Global Xpress, our commercial and military Ka-band network.
Those are the networks that are in orbit today. They are separate frequency bands but are integrated networks from Inmarsat. That means their design was unique yet with similar principles to support highly mobile users in the air, at sea and on land on a worldwide basis.
We also have a separate S-band satellite over Europe. The European Aviation Network complements those global networks by providing a completely different frequency but also has the ability to support very dense users for commercial aviation, augmented by a terrestrial component.
That user mobility is provided by across all of our business units, which include commercial aviation, maritime and enterprise, which covers our Internet of Things (IoT) and other areas as well. Our government users are also supported by Inmarsat’s networks through both the U.S. government and global government business units.
Any user that has a demand for mobility operations from a stable and secure founded network is best served by Inmarsat services. With that backdrop, that’s really from where we’re building the future. ORCHESTRA takes those multiple frequency bands and adds a 5G terrestrial capability to our global satellite assets.
With ORCHESTRA, we’re looking to combine the additional elements of 5G, machine learning and cloud-based services to put together this hybrid network of multiple frequency bands and eventually add a LEO combination for a multi-dimensional, dynamic mesh network that integrates GEO, LEO and 5G into a single advanced solution for global mobility.
ELERA came on the back of all that development to emphasize that we’ve made a significant investment in L-band for the rich throughput and our high data demands for commercial satellite communications.
ELERA reflects Inmarsat’s long-term commitment to the future of narrowband services, demonstrated by the imminent launch of our sixth-generation ‘I-6’ satellites, the fastest ever commercial L-band service, and the low-cost, smallest form factor terminal for global mobile connectivity.
ELERA takes the legacy of more than four decades and continues our investments and innovations in that L-band infrastructure, not just for the sake of services but to maintain our history and bring these capabilities down to a smaller size with higher throughput.
We’re taking a pioneering technology innovation company and utilizing the technological advances to stay ahead of the current set of demands from our broad user communities across all our business units and ensuring that we are staying ahead of the curve as well as keeping our technology refreshed and relevant for today, tomorrow and well into the future.”
ExecutiveBiz: With more than 25 years of federal experience in defense, aerospace and other areas, what can you tell us about our federal agencies working to adapt what we have learned in those sectors to implement them into the space market to establish sustainable best practices and ethics as the development of space tech continues to evolve?
“It is a fantastic and exciting time to be in the space industry. It’s expanding and what is really fascinating to me is how little is understood about the impact that space technology has on our daily lives.
My focus at Inmarsat is in the national security space where there’s no mission that occurs without space or communications. As we look at where the space tech arena is heading, the commercial industry is moving so much faster than the government.
The thing to focus on is the impact and the efficiencies space tech has added to our lives well beyond simply the ability to communicate from Point A to Point B, or the ability to have these autonomous ships at sea and unmanned vehicles that will end up being a lot more cost-efficient for us all.
However, a significant element moving forward as we look at these capabilities is to continue to invest in our next generation of professionals in space. How are we investing in developing our next decision-makers and students who will look at the stars and ponder the possibilities?
They will create new opportunities in space technology to solve our daily problems, and it could be as simple as having a STEM foundation. Inmarsat takes talent development quite seriously and we have a wide variety of programs and internships to showcase our capabilities to students and developing professionals as we continue to invest in our future and keep building the workforce.”
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ExecutiveBiz: What else can you tell us about your own expectations for Inmarsat’s growth strategies and expansion of your capabilities to drive innovation for the rest of 2021 and into 2022 and beyond?
“There’s nothing more exciting in a satellite professional’s career than watching and participating in a satellite launch. It’s very exciting and we have some coming up. In fact, we just announced the launch of Inmarsat’s first satellite in the Inmarsat-6 fleet (I-6 F1) scheduled for December 21. We discussed our continued commitment and investment in our L-band. That’s our narrowband offering for later this year.
We will be launching the first of our two Inmarsat-6s, which are L-band satellites with a Global Xpress payload at the end of this year. Those will be our first dual-frequency band satellites, which is exciting to be able to offer both the advancements in narrowband and wideband with our L-band and GX payloads.
Right on the heels of that, we have our two Arctic payloads, scheduled for launch in 2022. This extension of Global Xpress includes both commercial Ka capabilities as well as our military Ka. These payloads will operate in Highly Elliptical Orbits (HEO), ensuring continuous arctic coverage and featuring the ability to direct capacity in real-time to the areas of highest demand.
Of course, we’re also adding our GX7, 8 and 9 satellites to our Global Xpress constellation. Those satellites are the next chapter of highly agile, flexible, lower-cost satellite and ground infrastructure optimized for global mobility. Launched in 2023, these programmable Ka-band satellites will enable more responsive and cost-effective capacity scaling and seamless integration into the existing and planned Global Xpress network.
All our future services will be backward compatible with existing terminals and services, ensuring that Inmarsat customers benefit from the network’s increased capacity through using their current devices and that their existing connectivity investments are protected.
Currently, Inmarsat has 13 satellites in orbit and we’re adding another five satellites plus two payloads in just under four years. That’s a significant contribution to our constellation. Our business model is very different and driven by Inmarsat’s history of commitment to safety services which drives our global mobility-centric strategy, unique in the market.
Inmarsat builds a truly global network and fills in additional capacity based on requirements, unlike broadcast-centric operators, who build their systems regionally and extend to global incrementally. Our customers, therefore, benefit from uniform, resilient, worldwide seamless coverage and maximum mobility.
All of this shows that it’s going to be an exciting and dynamic time for the company but, more importantly, the impact of what these capabilities will offer to all of our mobility users on a worldwide basis is the most significant benefit that we take pride in achieving.”