Business / Companies

Inmarsat has an image of expansion in double digits

By Gao Yuan (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-07 07:14

Satellite firm aims for 'hundreds of millions of dollars' in China business

Inmarsat Plc, the British satellite company that provided key data in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, anticipates double-digit growth in the Chinese aviation, maritime and Internet of Things sectors over the next five years or so, Chief Executive Officer Rupert Pearce said on Wednesday.

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"We are talking about tens of millions of dollars turning into hundreds of millions of dollars for our Chinese business," said Pearce.

He said mobile satellite communications will be a key driver in China as commercial airliners, fishing ships and oil rigs adopt Inmarsat's devices.

About 60 percent of Inmarsat's revenue in China now comes from the media sector. The biggest client is State broadcaster China Central Television, which has invested heavily over many years in its global video transmission network.

"Looking forward, the fastest-growing market will be aviation, driven by rapid growth in demand for air travel," Pearce said.

Nearly 354 million trips were taken by air in China last year, a jump of 10.8 percent year-on-year, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China. More than 200 aircraft were added to the civilian fleet of some 2,000 planes in 2013, and that number is set to grow as planes on order are delivered.

Inmarsat came to the attention of the Chinese public in March after a Malaysian Boeing 777 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. A massive international search eventually shifted to the southern Indian Ocean based on the aircraft's signal "handshakes" with two Inmarsat satellites.

But the plane, carrying 239 people - including more than 150 Chinese passengers - is still missing.

Pearce said he is "very confident" that MH370 crashed somewhere along a reconstructed path that was based on Inmarsat data.

Pearce said the MH370 disaster will fundamentally change the decades-old system of aviation communications and promote new technologies.

The incident revealed both the limitations of ground-based radar and the fact that satellite technology is capable of tracking aircraft.

"There is no doubt that international aviation regulators are looking very hard into the case and we'll see how far they are willing to push the adoption of new technologies," he said.

Inmarsat is trying to set up an international network, providing free tracking service to aircraft flying over the oceans. The company's satellites already serve 80 percent of the ocean-going jets around the world.

The company's global business is projected to grow 8 to 12 percent over the next three years because of increasing demand for satellite communications.

China is busy building its own satellite navigation system known as Beidou.

Brian Jia, chairman of navigation chip maker Intelligence Silicon Tech Co Ltd, said government procurement projects are set to favor the Beidou system in the foreseeable future.

The country aims to boost the Beidou system's domestic market share to 60 percent by 2020, according to a government plan released last year.

Pearce said Inmarsat networks and Beidou are "compatible", giving the British company more opportunities to win business in China.

"Beidou is good at location-based services, while our advantage is in communications. Not only are they not in conflict, I think there is a good chance for the two systems to work together," he said.

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