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Who is boosting emergency communications in 2020?

Fri 14 Jul 2017 by Martyn Wingrove

Who is boosting emergency communications in 2020?
Iridium has developed its Next generation of satellites for enhanced maritime safety communications

Iridium Communications expects to commence its Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) services for maritime emergencies in 2020. The US-headquartered company has made progress on the technology, satellite constellation construction and regulatory hurdles to feel confident that GMDSS services can begin in less than three years’ time.

Further launches of Iridium Next low Earth orbit satellites will help build a modern and reliable constellation to provide global L-band coverage for safety and emergency communications. These satellites should all be deployed and commissioned during 2018.

Development and testing of Iridium Certus terminals by Cobham Satcom and Thales should be completed this year, so they will be available from the first half of 2018 for installation. These will enable ships to use the GMDSS service.

Achieving the regulatory requirements for operating a GMDSS service are in hand. IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee adopted new performance standards for GMDSS equipment and approved amendments to Solas to enable Iridium to provide GMDSS services in competition to those already available from Inmarsat.

The key remaining step in the approval process is an IMO resolution recognising Iridium as a certified GMDSS mobile satellite service provider, which should be completed before the end of 2018.

“IMO and the maritime community recognise that GMDSS needs to modernise, and additional service providers is one part of that,” said Iridium vice president and general manager, strategic planning Brian Pemberton.

“We have worked closely with IMO to establish new standards that will bring choice and competition to this critical service area for the first time. Competition is key to ensuring that mariners are provided best-in-class communications for safety purposes, which is a must out at sea.”

The Iridium Next network is a constellation of 66 low-Earth orbit and cross-linked satellites, which replace satellites that are close to the end of their operating life. This next-generation constellation is being launched by SpaceX through a series of eight launches, with two successful launches already complete. 

Cobham Satcom and Thales have developed Certus terminals for data speeds of 352 kbps and will test these on vessels over the rest of this year and the first half of 2018. IMO is making progress on modernising GMDSS with new services and modern safety satellite communications.

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