It’s a year the world will be glad to see the back of, but aside from the challenge of COVID-19 there have been positive achievements for Inmarsat to reflect on.
There is no doubt that this year will be remembered for one thing above all else. COVID-19 has affected the entire global population, forcing the world to adapt in ways that would have been unimaginable 12 months ago.
The coronavirus pandemic highlighted our reliance on connectivity like never before. As nation after nation locked down, entire industries switched to remote operations.
In March, Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce voiced our commitment to keeping the world moving. “Inmarsat and its global community of partners – alongside the entire satellite communications industry – are working around the world and around the clock, to ensure that our customers are able to rely on our connectivity solutions for vital safety and humanitarian services, and to keep the arteries of global trade flowing,” he said.
It soon became clear that COVID-19 was particularly affecting workers in the maritime industry. By July, the International Transport Workers’ Federation estimated that 600,000 seafarers had been affected by the pandemic – half of those stranded on ships due to travel restrictions and an equal number left unemployed on shore. From the start of the spread of the virus, Inmarsat took action to answer the surge in demand for voice and data connectivity by crews separated from their loved ones for months. A 50% voice call discount, free access to welfare organisation ISWAN’s helpline and a free telemedicine video service were among the support offered.
Enhanced support was also given to aid organisations and NGOs, making it easier for them to access our BGAN Link and IsatPhone 2 services.
But it was the aviation industry that suffered the worst impact, with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reporting a year on year drop in passenger demand in April of 94.3%. However, in the same month the first seeds of optimism were sown at FlightPlan, an online broadcast event hosted by Inmarsat Aviation and the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX).
Leading voices in the aviation world predicted a rebound driven by digitalisation where sustainability would be higher up the agenda. In November, FlightPlan 2 reviewed what had been done to make flying in a pandemic safe and viable, and explored strategies to accelerate the recovery and future growth.
Télécoms Sans Frontières in the Philippines
There were moments of celebration. In July, we marked the 20th anniversary of a very special partnership with Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF). Inmarsat provides the emergency telecoms NGO with technology, hardware and connectivity so that it can provide communications to aid agencies and victims of natural disasters all over the world. In two decades, TSF has responded to over 140 crises in more than 70 countries, supporting over 20 million people and nearly 1,000 NGOs.
The theme of the annual World Space Week in October was Satellites Improve Life, which gave us a chance to reflect on how satellite connectivity benefits humanity, from protecting lives at sea and in flight to bridging the digital divide in previously unconnected communities and transforming entire industries through the Internet of Things, enabling organisations to work more effectively, securely and sustainably in even the most remote and challenging environments.
In 2020 we reached important milestones in our technology roadmap. A massive expansion of our ground network saw us commission six new ground stations to support GX5, our newest Global Xpress satellite. More powerful than the entire GX1-4 fleet combined, GX5 entered commercial service on 10 December, meeting growing demand across Europe and the Middle East, in particular for aviation Wi-Fi and commercial maritime services.
This is just the start of a journey which will see us delivering a revolution in mobile satellite connectivity through our Global Xpress and L-band networks. A new generation of capabilities for the 5G era. Enhanced global safety services. All the bandwidth you need, anywhere, the minute you need it. Reliable, high-speed connectivity at the top of the world.
It’s all to come as we look forward to a brighter new year.