iDirect Looks to Software Upgrade to Solve Offshore Operators Cost Concerns
[Satellite News 03-22-11] iDirect’s TDMA-powered iDX 3.0 software platform has proven successful in the offshore enterprise markets during the past few years as early technology adopters such as Schlumberger and CapRock continue to increase their demands for videoconferencing and data delivery services. iDirect targeted these high-demand markets by transitioning customers away from SCPC solutions to TDMA for IP application efficiency.
However, while developing enhancements for the iDX platform, iDirect CTO Dave Bettinger started to notice that going from complete SCPC to complete TDMA was not fulfilling all of his customers’ needs.
“Oil and gas is a key vertical market that we listened to when developing technology, as we’ve been a part of that business for seven or eight years now. When we signed contracts with Schlumberger and CapRock, they were in operating in a total SCPC world, however, as more and more applications went to IP, we came along and showed how efficient you could manage applications over TDMA,” said Bettinger. “So we sent them down this technological path, but then these customers started to realize that some of their applications were increasing their bandwidth utilization and their actual on-demand throughput amounts, which was driving up costs.”
With operational costs being the most important selling point for maritime customers, Bettinger knew iDirect would have to figure out a way to allow its users to switch back and forth between TDMA and SCPC modes depending on what applications were being run. iDirect’s solution was to add SCPC return channel capability to its IP satellite communications platform, bringing TDMA and SCPC technology to the same product. The capability aims to equip service providers with flexibility to support dynamic customer networks and enable them to capture new revenue opportunities and lower operational costs, Bettinger said.
“With a number of applications going to IP, the ideal situation for a majority of enterprises and government, in terms of mobility, is to have efficiency and flexibility in bandwidth management. The IP protocol is very ‘bursty’ in nature, meaning that you get a connection to move data, and then you’re offline for some period of time. So TDMA is the ideal technology in those situations where you want to have a shared network and share the bandwidth among multiple users,” he said. “But SCPC is traditionally played on dedicated channels when you have applications where the nature of the traffic is more constant. Enterprise users on SCPC would want to dedicate a certain amount of throughput permanently or on-demand. This is especially good for applications like videoconferencing, where you need a lot of high-definition bandwidth.”
One of the biggest and most costly complaints concerning data connectivity for iDirect’s offshore customers was videoconferencing applications that incorporated moving large amounts of data bandwidth, Bettinger said.
“There have been a number of instances where offshore companies have taken the engineers off the rigs, put them back on land and connected them remotely through sensors to save money. During these events, engineers would have to send gigabytes worth of drilling and seismic data through the network to the people they were connected to. In those specific instances, it’s much more efficient to send it up on an SCPC channel. Traditionally, players had to choose between TDMA with iDirect, or they would make a bet that the bandwidth utilization was high enough that they would want to install SCPC. Well, the world is not that easy and the network operator who wants to provide both services would have had to learn and support several different platforms. We thought there was a better way to do that.”
Bettinger hopes the innovation to the platform will appeal to both its existing and potential customers’ budgets. “With the iDX 3.0 enhancement, we want to provide network operators the flexibility and the efficiency to choose which carrier they will use on-demand and not have to have a supply chain carry both at the boxes. We’re thinking about the total cost of ownership for our users and bandwidth efficiency. Cutting costs means enterprise users can expand and grow into new businesses.”