Suri dismisses the idea they are rivals. Inmarsat’s new network will add around 150 to 175 low-orbit satellites, but these will be strictly focused on its aerospace, maritime and government clients. Orchestra will combine Inmarsat’s other offerings, which includes 14 satellites in “geostationary” orbit 22,000 miles high.
It will also add terrestrial 5G to “hotspots”. This might be a busy port or airport. An aircraft linked to Inmarsat would be able to use its low-orbit satellites to boost data speeds, before swapping to 5G on landing.
The initial research will cost $100m, although it is not clear how much the overall satellite launches will cost.
Inmarsat is also planning to revamp its existing network with new launches this year, in a new system called “Elera”, to provide connections to self-driving vehicles and drones..
This, Suri believes, should stop it from treading on the toes of Elon Musk, who is marketing the Starlink network to consumers as an alternative form of home broadband.
Still, Suri says the satellite business is going to need mergers to size up to future threats such as Musk and China’s growing satellite industry.