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HTS Promises Cost-Effective, Reliable Connectivity for Oil and Gas

By | November 9, 2015
      iDirect Velocity

      Photo: iDirect

      [Via Satellite 11-09-2015] Companies across the value chain are working to make High Throughput Satellite (HTS) system communications a reality for the cash-strapped, bandwidth-hungry oil and gas market.

      “Oilfields, offshore, and mobile platforms have typically relied on satellite communications as the only way to reach out to remote areas and have suitable availability,” said Matine Bouraima, director of product marketing at Comtech EF Data, a company that provides products to enable satellite communications. “But the energy markets are in the midst of a bandwidth revolution, requiring over 25 Gbps of bandwidth by 2022.”

      The need for reliable and constant connectivity is being driven by the advent of more sophisticated systems on oilrigs; the immediacy and importance of data; an increasing quality of drilling operations video required to allow proper decision making; Internet availability for crew to reach family and friends while abroad; and remote monitoring that allows the crew to reach expertise of professionals at headquarters. And with more than 461,000 in-service satellite units and $2.6 billion in revenues by 2022, according to Bouraima, energy markets will remain a critical consumer of satellite communications for the foreseeable future.

      But while bandwidth needs are growing to enable a mounting connectivity wish list for which HTS systems present the most prevalent solution, budgets are shrinking in the midst of the recent economic downturn.

      “As end users need to scale the network, they need to incorporate high throughput satellites into their infrastructure but aren’t sure how to do it; it’s a complex world. The cost of implementing high throughput is not trivial because you have a lot of infrastructure to invest in, a lot of beams to eliminate and, at a time when there’s not a lot of money laying around to make those investments, this becomes very challenging,” said Mark Rasmussen, vice president of the Americas at Intelsat, a satellite communications company that provides wholesale bandwidth to connectivity providers.

      In an attempt to accommodate these challenges, companies are looking for ways to introduce more efficient and cost effective ways to implement HTS connectivity on offshore oilrigs. Intelsat has introduced its IntelsatOne Flex platform, which provides an opportunity to increase network efficiency at a lower cost per bit, according to the company, while tamping down on the network complexities and additional resources most HTS systems will require.

      The wholesale Mbps service aggregates Intelsat’s prime space segment, which includes Intelsat EpicNG and select wide beams as well as the company’s global terrestrial network and the HTS-optimized iDirect Velocity platform, into one ecosystem. This aims to allow customers to adjust and adapt for the shifting needs of an oil and gas customer as rigs move or situations change.

      “You will be able to get growth without having to take huge bets, but now it’s also about the ability to ebb and flow as your users move around the globe,” said Rasmussen. “We are really trying to make access to the throughput that Epic is providing, easier. An easier way to buy it, an easier way to conceptualize it, an easier way to manage it.”

      This also means enabling cost-effective and simple access to HTS infrastructure, which is where iDirect comes in. The company provides the technology for the ground infrastructure that enables satellite providers to optimize networks.

      “HTS satellites introduce greater complexity at the gateway. There are going to be issues with different bands on the satellite and of course the issues of having multiple beams over wide geographic regions and over multiple satellites as well. This is a complexity that has to be handled by the ground equipment and it has forced us to add a number of upgrades to our platform going forward in order to accommodate the HTS satellites that are going up,” said Mike Patullo of the solutions group at iDirect.

      To this end, iDirect has begun to enable the change in infrastructure that can manage oncoming requirements from new satellites, including adding capacity and throughput, upping redundancy, and making the system more reliable as systems come to rely on it more heavily.

      To enable these increases in throughput and lower the cost per bit, Comtech EF Data, has also upgraded its systems to incorporate the horsepower to support demand, the efficiency to maximize operating expenses and up quality of experience in accordance with new systems and the applications, such as telemedicine, that rely on them.

      “The constrained operational budgets that are out there is no secret and how the compression of oil prices has put pressure on the networking groups in the company and right through the supply chain to the satellite operators and the service providers. At the same time, we are seeing increasing bandwidth demands for video and crew welfare but companies are having trouble paying for it. Intelsat and its partners are doing our best to target these primary challenges in a very difficult landscape,” said Rassmussen.