Inmarsat and Aramco’s Historic Overwater 5G Mesh Network Trial

In a recent development, Inmarsat Maritime, a subsidiary of Viasat, has formalized a partnership with Aramco, a global leader in energy and chemicals, through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The collaboration is geared towards conducting a groundbreaking trial of a 5G “mesh” network, specifically designed to provide high-bandwidth connectivity for Aramco’s offshore operations in the challenging climate of the Arabian Gulf.

This cutting-edge technology is engineered to deliver high-speed communication capabilities while addressing the harsh environmental conditions prevalent in the region, such as extreme heat, sandstorms, wind, and water evaporation. The enhanced reliability of 5G in adverse weather conditions positions it as a robust solution for the demands of offshore work.

The MoU follows a successful outdoor network testing phase conducted in Rutland Water, UK, in February 2024. This testing demonstrated the reliable and high throughput signal propagation of millimeter Wave (mmWave) technology over water. Subsequent phases of the trial will involve rigorous testing of the 5G mobile Integrated Access and Backhaul (mIAB) network and specific developments by Inmarsat Maritime under the extreme weather conditions of the Arabian Gulf later this year. The objective is to showcase a world-first long-range, high-throughput mIAB deployment over the sea, surpassing the previous 1km range limitation.

The adoption of Inmarsat Maritime’s 5G mesh technology by Aramco is expected to revolutionize offshore operations, offering capabilities such as intelligent remote maintenance, remote operations, and IoT sensor-based monitoring and metering. Equipping staff with augmented reality headsets for assisted operations, novel safety and security features, and the potential for cost savings and efficient energy use are additional benefits.

Inmarsat Maritime’s advanced ground infrastructure incorporates built-in cybersecurity and data protection. Vessels operating in remote areas can leverage satellite coverage through Inmarsat Maritime’s bonded network solution, already integrated into over 14,000 vessels globally.

Ben Palmer OBE, President of Inmarsat Maritime, expressed enthusiasm about the partnership, emphasizing the versatility of their technologies to create bespoke solutions. The collaboration with Aramco is seen as a significant step towards optimizing site efficiency, improving sustainability, enhancing crew experiences, and fortifying against cyber threats.

Nabil Al-Nuaim, Sr. VP Digital & Information Technology at Aramco, highlighted the strategic importance of extending high-speed connectivity to remote offshore sites through 5G mesh technology. This initiative aligns with Aramco’s corporate digital transformation vision, aiming to accelerate the deployment of advanced use cases, optimize operations, and enhance the work environment for operators. Al-Nuaim emphasized the collaboration with technology leaders and leveraging operational experience as key components for successful technology developments.

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