Thu, 13 Oct 1994

Inmarsat to set up worldwide mobile satellite service

JAKARTA (JP): The International Maritime Satellite Organization (Inmarsat) is inviting its signatories all over the world, including PT Indosat, the state-owned international telecommunications firm, to participate in a US$2.6 billion mobile communications satellite project.

Inmarsat, a leading global mobile satellite communications operator, owned by 76 telecommunications firms from various countries, is based in London. Indosat, who became a member in 1986, has a 0.26 percent stake in Inmarsat.

Inmarsat's manager for strategic planning, Patrick McDougal, told reporters here yesterday that he is quite convinced that Indosat, who plans to float its shares internationally next Tuesday, will take part in the project.

He said the project, called Project 21, was first announced in 1991, as a major initiative to develop advanced satellite base personal mobile communications system to meet market demand for the remainder of the decade and into the next century. The principal development of the program is called Inmarsat-P.

"The major objective of the project is to provide users throughout the world with a wide variety of voice, data telecopy and paging services, integrated with terrestrial cellular and personal communications network (PCN) systems by means of handheld, pocket-sized satellite terminals," he said.

McDougal said the Inmarsat-P system has been in development for over four years, during which time the operator has worked closely with a number of external consultants and industry participants.

"We are collaborating with aerospace industrial contractors including Hughes Aircraft, Lockheed Martin and Matra Marconi. Mobile phone manufacturers including Ericsson, Nokia, NEC, ABB and HNS as well as several market research firms," he said.

By the year 2000, 2.5 billion people will still be beyond reach of cellular phones and 85 percent of land mass will still be unserved, he said. "In Indonesia, 20 percent of the people will be living outside of areas of cellular coverage in the year 2001."


Inmarsat-P, estimated to be cheaper than other mobile telecommunications products, can be used by people traveling anywhere in the world, he said

McDougal also said that the British-based Inmarsat Council decided, last month, to establish a separate affiliated limited company, as yet unnamed, to implement Inmarsat-P, whose first phase will cost $1 billion.

"We will be looking for a loan of $1.2 billion from banks for the whole project," he said.

Inmarsat-P, using 12 satellites in an intermediate circular orbit system for its space segment, will likely offer handheld phones at around $1,000 each with communications charges averaging $2 per minute.


Indosat's top executives are now in Europe for public presentation on the company's share issuance.

An executive at the company said, yesterday, Indosat will be very careful in choosing a project.

Indosat will develop digital cellular telecommunications using the latest telecommunications technology, Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) in cooperation with PT Telkom in the near future.

Indonesia is also likely to develop a mobile geo-stationary satellite telecommunication system, under a feasibility study at Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN) of Indonesia, Singapore Technologies Ventures, Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. and Hughes Communications Inc. of the United States. When started, the US$900 million project will have four satellites which will be able to serve about one million subscribers in Asian nations.(icn)