The maritime segment of the satcom market is a bright spot in these sluggish economic times, attracting hardware vendors and satellite service providers like community organizers to an ACORN rally. MSS service providers have dominated the high seas for the last three decades; but improvements in technology have driven down both the size and price of stabilized VSAT terminals, making them more affordable to larger numbers of vessels. Combine the price reduction for VSAT hardware with ocean-blanketing footprints and the resulting sales curve of maritime VSATs has increased its northward tilt. Growing numbers of fleets are adding VSAT to their communication arsenal as the hunger for bandwidth increases.
Although maritime VSAT installations are increasing, Iridium and Inmarsat aren’t standing still, offering always-on, IP-based services which are billed by the megabit instead of the minute. Although the throughput is significantly less than what a VSAT can provide, the price for an MSS terminal is just a fraction of what a VSAT costs. The footprints of MSS terminals are tiny too, making them practical on just about anything larger than a bass boat.
While it may appear to outsiders that MSS and FSS service providers are locked in a class over the maritime market, both types of service offer distinct advantages and the Maritime Industry relies on both types of services heavily. Scan the superstructure and decks of large vessel and you will likely see an assortment of maritime terminals. Although it is tempting to put all your communication eggs in the proverbial basket, in the real world it is important to have multiple communication options while at sea.
The demand for bandwidth on the seas will increase, just like it does on land. New terminals will be developed to support new and creative applications, allowing maritime companies do improve efficiencies and increase profits. We have only scratched the surface in this satellite-dominated market. Look for this market segment to grow for the next several years.