[Satellite News 09-18-10] Executives speaking on day two of the Comsys VSAT 2010 conference focused on specific VSAT customers and the applications that have seen an increase in demand.
CapRock Communications CEO Peter Shaper said the company had seen some changes in the oil and gas market in recent years, with more drilling operations moving out of the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea and into the Middle East and Asia. Drilling companies now want a seamless experience across different regions.
Shaper highlighted the issues faced by its customer Transocean, a large drilling operator. “They wanted one global, end-to-end solution. They have more than 100 sites and a geographically dispersed fleet. Every rig has to have identical user experience. They have to have consistent SLAs. There were licensing hurdles. The complexity of this exploded us and it took a lot longer that we thought it would be.”
Another application that Shaper discussed was tele-medicine, highlighting an unusual issue the company has faced in delivering the service. “Tele-medicine is nothing new in the drilling environment. But, it hasn’t really taken off very much. Insurance companies have not figured out whether they are willing to pay for tele-medicine. There are also issues with medical provision. You need almost a full hospital in the background. It has been a slow road. You have to work out some of the bumps. But, it is not really to do with the communications capabilities,” he said.
In the VSAT video services market, Abel Avellan, CEO of German company EMC said increasing demand has provided good news for VSAT players. “Satellite and video services love each other in terms of efficiency, quality and cost to deliver. According to research we have seen, HD will account for over 50 percent of video traffic in business video conferencing in 2014. Video services are no longer a luxury. Ka-band for North America and Europe is good news for the industry. We are using satellite as a transport for HD interactive video conference services in networks for 50 up to 1000 locations, using satellite multicast video capabilities. We see more adoption of video services, which is good news for the VSAT industry.”
But Avellan said that satellite is still plagued with a perception issue among global IT managers that VSATs is a last resort. “With networks becoming video, satellite is in a good position here. There is significant amount of work in terms of educating customers. We think applications can perform equally as well over satellite, and fiber. Satellite is not the last resort.”
One of the more interesting case studies on the day involved the provision of IT services on high-end yachts. Bertrand Hartman is CEO of OmniAccess, a company which provides marine VSAT services and has around 40 customers, some of the wealthiest people anywhere in the world. Hartman said his company has a love/hate relationship with VSAT. “It gives us more headaches than just about anything else. However, it is so important for our boats. It is operated from our Mallorca teleport. We had our own teleport this year. We use this for fairly high-end VSAT services. We are very active in creating on-board systems using VSAT. Our products are specifically designed for marine applications. The installation environment is quite different. Things tend to break on boats. There are lots of things you have to take into account.”
While Hartman views VSAT as reliable, he noted that his company has to pay a lot of attention to initial installation and commissioning. Proper antenna placement and making sure the onboard network is well-designed are key priorities to utilizing the potential of the VSAT system. “You need to think of VSAT as part of the overall network, rather than as a separate part of things,” said Hartman.
Leveraging the maximum potential of VSAT is crucial for OmniAccess, which according to Hartman, has some of the most demanding customers around when it comes to Internet and communications services. “Our clients have huge boats. Everything on them is cutting edge. The boats can cost from $30 million up to $300 million. The pre-dominant VSAT technology is iDirect and Ku-band. Crew size on these boats can be from 4-70 persons. The question is not if they will have VSAT, but how many VSATs they will have. Ku-band is the pre-dominant technology. You do see some C-band, also.”
Hartman said that while VSAT technology is a key influence in the decision to build expansive new boats, dealing in this part of the market can be a double-edged sword. “While customers are willing to pay a high price for services, expectations are often unrealistically high. Bespoke solutions are required. They are relatively price insensitive. There are relatively low onboard IT and RF skills. There is extreme dependence upon permanent Internet connectivity.”