[Satellite News 05-08-12] MSS operator Inmarsat has ramped up its plans to sell new solutions to the maritime market in recent weeks after the operator announced that 12 maritime communications specialists had been approved to sell its XpressLink service, which aims to offer a fully-integrated Ku-band and L-band solution for a fixed monthly cost.
XpressLink supports always-on data speeds of 768 Kbps, with a committed information rate of 192 Kbps, when the VSAT service is active. Inmarsat issued an invitation to distributors, service providers and system integrators to participate in a platform partnership in early March. Inmarsat Maritime President Frank Coles told Satellite News that the deals represent a huge vote of confidence for the operator and a clear endorsement of its strategy and direction for its communication services.
“It is a huge vote of confidence,” said Coles. “We work with the partners who believe that Inmarsat represents the future of maritime communications. The process took about six months, from when we first announced XpressLink – although the responses we received from those invited to become an XpressLink dealer was very quick.”
The operator is in the middle of ambitious plans to launch three Ka-band satellites, and operate services under the Global Xpress brand. The operator is spending $1.2 billion on the Global Xpress system, one of the most aggressive capital expenditure plans anywhere in the industry.
Coles believes the launch of the system will offer game-changing solutions to the maritime industry. “It is finally going to give the industry a chance to enjoy the applications and Internet speeds that are taken for granted on shore and thus allow our customers to operate their vessels in a much more efficient manner – as well as greatly enhancing the lifestyle and morale of the crew,” said Coles. “Unlimited, high-speed satellite broadband will provide the crew with Internet and Voice-over-IP telephony at sea, through which they can stay in touch with family and close friends.”
The signing of 12 dealers for XpressLink services is a key step, but Coles said the operator is not finished in terms of adding more distribution partners for the service. He expects to increase the number of XpressLink dealers as the company continually holds discussions with potential strategic partners. “We look for partners committed to high-speed broadband communications, to building value-added services, a vision for the future and a belief in Global Xpress, our global Ka-band network that will revolutionize the satellite broadband market.”
Maritime communications has always been a core market for Inmarsat. In its most recent results, the operator revealed that it generated close to $358.9 million in revenue from the maritime market in 2011. Ironically, this was a slight decrease compared to 2010, when it generated $360.6 million in revenue. The reason for the decrease was mainly down to the fall in voice revenues, which dropped from $98.1 million in 2010 to $90.2 million in 2011.
Encouragingly, data revenues from the maritime market increased, but not enough to cover the shortfall. Despite the fall in revenues, Coles believes there are some encouraging trends at work in the maritime market and sees a large uptake of customers moving to larger data plans.
“Ship owners and management companies are looking for ways to leverage communications to improve operational efficiency,” said Coles. “Through Inmarsat’s satellite broadband connections, onshore staff can use the data pipeline to assist the senior crew onboard. It is also often utilised for weather routing and remote monitoring of onboard IT applications. In today’s world, information gives you a competitive edge so being able to stay in touch with the vessel 24/7 and communicate the latest news to the ship is crucial. It’s the survival of the fastest.”