With demands for bandwidth set to increase, satellite players are vying to supply the crowded maritime sector with more effective communications solutions, as shipping operators look to satellite to boost their performance.
Maritime is one of the most exciting sectors for satellite companies, as shipping companies look to beef up their communications and entertainment capabilities. Improved connectivity is becoming a vital tool for improving overall efficiency and reducing costs as well as retaining an experienced crew, important considerations for shipping operators during tough economic times.
It is clear the operators want more bandwidth, says Christian Bergan, director, verticals marketing — maritime, for iDirect. “From a trending perspective, we see owners deploying new applications, and bandwidth consumption is sharply on the rise. In fact, several of the operators are reporting bandwidth consumption of more than 40 Gb per month. That is quite significant compared to what it was a few years ago, when it was only 10 to 20 Gb per month, so there have been major changes in bandwidth consumption. When we look at the maritime market three to four years ago, VSAT played a major role in specific segments such as cruise line or the oil and gas tanker market. There was a lot of early interest from these segments because they had the bandwidth requirements necessary for broadband connectivity. In recent years we have seen VSAT services gaining popularity in areas like the shipping industry, because the increase in applications being used on board has increased their requirements and they can’t cost-effectively meet those needs through traditional satellite services. There is a lot of new interest from areas where VSAT has not been traditionally installed, and we expect that trend to continue in the short- to mid-term.”
James Collett, director of maritime services at Inmarsat says his company is seeing an increasing demand for greater data volumes, which calls for more bandwidth and higher throughput to and from ships. “The desire to have a ship as a node on the network of a shipping company is absolutely key. This demand for more data applications will lead to more growth. What is clear is that many of these shipping companies have strong business cases which center around spending more on communications and connectivity in order to bring a return in other areas. For example, fuel efficiency, routing and general ship operations are all areas where users can bring improvements to their bottom line through increase use of satcoms, so everyone in the data market will want to participate fully in that growth.”
In terms of some of the technology trends, Chris Baugh, CEO of NSR, says, “Smaller dishes with higher throughput (is one trend). The ‘hot dish’ now appears to be 30 centimeters, half of last year’s ‘hot dish’ of 60 centimeters. In the maritime market in general, everything is going IP... engine monitoring, internal navigation systems etc. On-board computer networks are expanding to include Wi-Fi access points for personal laptops on some of the higher-end customers. Smaller dishes, fixed prices and regulatory changes mean smaller vessel operators now are looking for satellite services,” he says.