By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Britain's Inmarsat Plc said Friday's expected launch of its third Global Xpress satellite will allow it to offer mobile broadband service to customers in the remotest regions, giving airline passengers the ability to stream movies and update social media on flights worldwide.
Chief Executive Officer Rupert Pearce said Inmarsat, the leading provider of satellite communications, was in final preparations for the launch. The launch was initially scheduled for June but got delayed after a failure by Inmarsat's rocket launch partner, International Launch Services, in May.
Pearce said the company had worked hard to control any risks on the launch by performing its own rigorous quality assurance. "We've never had a launch failure in our history," he said in a telephone interview this week.
Pearce said the launch of the third satellite would complete the Global Xpress network, allowing Inmarsat to start offering broadband service to a wide range of government and industry customers, including airlines, by the end of the year.
By 2020, the company expects the new network to generate $500 million a year in additional revenues.
Inmarsat already serves 100 governments, including the U.S. Defence Department, its single largest customer, and many commercial sectors. But the new network will allow it to expand its existing business and tap into new markets, Pearce said.
"We have a very good book of business waiting to transition to Global Xpress," which will offer greater bandwidth and reliability than existing satellite networks, he said.
Providing connectivity to airline passengers will be one of the biggest demand drivers, Pearce said, citing estimates that put the size of that overall market at nearly $2 billion a year.
He said Inmarsat's investment of over $3 billion in the network had lowered the cost per megabit, and passengers should get access for the price of "not much more than a couple cups of coffee."
He said Inmarsat was in talks with over a dozen airlines about the new service, with some carriers likely to adopt it in early 2016.
Inmarsat is also building an air-to-ground network in Europe that would offer more spectrum to the short-haul airline market.
The new network will also help improve aviation safety, Pearce said, noting that the company had pilot projects with several airlines to offload cockpit voice recorder data and flight safety data in real-time in the event of an emergency.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)