Inmarsat sees 3Q dip in aeronautical revenue; says Ka plan on track

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Global satellite provider Inmarsat saw revenue in its aeronautical sector dip by a slight 2.2% to $26.6 million for the third quarter.

Nonetheless, the London-headquartered Inmarsat said the third quarter saw "strong new terminal activations" of its SwiftBroadband aeronautical service, an L-band-based service that supports in-flight connectivity on commercial, corporate and government aircraft.

Aeronautical revenue for the three month period ended 30 September also benefited from higher usage levels of Inmarsat's Swift64 service, though this boost was predominately driven by government users "and such usage can be temporary in nature and therefore may not be sustained through the fourth quarter", said the firm.

Overall, Inmarsat achieved a 17.9% year-over-year increase in third-quarter revenue to $364.1 million. However, revenue for its mobile satellite services (MSS) took a hit, decreasing to $180.7 million from $185.1 million in the third quarter of 2010.

A key factor driving Inmarsat's overall revenue gains for the third quarter was its cooperation agreement with broadband wholesaler LightSquared, a pact that gives the broadband wholesaler access to alternate L-band spectrum as it develops a mobile phone service.

"Revenue from our cooperation agreement with LightSquared continues to drive strong headline growth and offset a slowdown in our MSS revenues. While third quarter MSS results were in line with our expectations, as previously stated, we are unlikely to see consistent evidence of a return to MSS revenue growth until next year," said Inmarsat chairman and CEO Andrew Sukawaty.

"However, in the meantime we are making progress with key new product developments and with our Global Xpress programme and these are important building blocks to future value and new growth."

Global Xpress, a superfast Ka-band-supported aeronautical service that is expected to come on line in 2014, has generated a lot of attention from in-flight connectivity service providers, airlines and airframers.

The Global Xpress programme is "on track and budget", said Inmarsat.