European Space Agency

MMPE - Maritime Mobile Phone Extension


Crew social calling is a growing but still under exploited market. Several challenges exist today that prevent the market from being fully exploited, such as:

  • Lack of satellite terminals on vessels dedicated for use by crew. On many vessels crew members have to go to the bridge of the vessel to ask the captain or mate to use the satellite terminal, which principally is there for commercial operations and safety. This often creates a deterrent to making calls;

  • Lack of privacy. Even on vessels that have dedicated crew calling phones, it is often located in a public area, making it hard to have a private conversation;

  • Lack of a streamlined means of account settlement. On many vessels, the method for crewmembers to pay for the calls involves manual timing of duration and calculation of the charge creating an administrative barrier;

  • Peak rate tariffs outside of the off peak periods are causing crews to make fewer calls; and

  • High cost of shipboard terminals, inhibit ship-owners/managers to make specific crew calling hardware investments.
This project is to develop a maritime BGAN terminal integrated with a mobile phone 3G Pico cell to provide a service where crews can use their personal mobile phones for social communication.


The project will develop a low cost integrated hardware solution which is easy to install on vessels. Compression techniques will be employed to minimise the bandwidth required to carry voice channels over the satellite link. Modification of the UMTS system management protocol will be required to reduce the amount of data required to operate the PICO cell over a satellite link to reduce the operational cost to an acceptable level.


An affordable crew calling solution will be produced which is capable of delivering voice and SMS while at sea at competitive rates. Crew morale is significantly improved when they can communicate with friends and family which results in improved operational efficiency for the ship owner and improved crew retention.


The system will use the next generation maritime Inmarsat terminal, Fleet Broad Band, running over the BGAN network. A low cost UMTS PICO cell base station will be integrated with the terminal to provide an affordable easy to install solution for ship owners and operators.


The product will utilise Inmarsat?s Fleetbroadband system and will be launched once global coverage has been achieved in 2008.

Current status

The system design phase is complete. A baseline design review has been held. EMS is currently updating documentation following the Baseline Design Review. 

Status date

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - 00:00