O3b Networks is ramping up activity ahead of the launch of its first satellites next year. The company announced the launch of its new O3b Maritime service and is likely to announce a new oil and gas service, among others, in the next few months. With the launch of its first set of satellites now less than a year away, the company is increasing its activities as it looks to sell its services and solutions to different industry verticals. O3b Networks CEO, Steve Collar, talks about the challenges ahead.
VIA SATELLITE: What is the significance of the launch of O3b Maritime?
Collar: O3b Maritime is an important product for us and it comes on the back of the launch of O3b Trunk and O3bCell. Our four key verticals are trunking, cellular backhaul, enterprise (maritime and energy) and government. O3b Maritime is targeting the premium maritime markets of cruise operators and private super yachts as opposed to commercial shipping, or small vessels. There are a number of customers demanding bandwidth that they are not able to get today, and probably not able to get from any other maritime solution in the future. We are able to deliver up to 500 Mbps to an individual vessel — a unique proposition in the market that is best evidenced in our recently announced deal with Royal Caribbean.
VIA SATELLITE: Is maritime a small play for O3b?
Collar: The core business for O3b will remain a combination of trunking and mobile backhaul but we think we can successfully capture a reasonably significant share of this market. There is nobody else out there who can do what we can do. For customers that are looking to differentiate themselves and offer a high-end experience, we become the best solution. If you take the cruise industry, huge investment is made to provide guests the very best cruise experience possible — from food to excursions and from cabins to facilities and services — but until now it has not extended to include connectivity. This can turn a positive cruise experience into a negative one as, increasingly, we all expect to be connected everywhere as if we are at home or in the office.
VIA SATELLITE: As O3b approached its service launch date, how close is the company to signing some key commercial contracts?
Collar: We launched our O3bCell product recently, which highlights some core aspects of value that we can bring to mobile operators. For example, there is almost no data deployed over satellite today so the satellite backhaul that exists is carrying almost exclusively voice. The primary reason is that it is not affordable to deploy 3G or 4G data services over traditional geostationary satellites. O3b allows mobile operators to deploy voice and data affordably over satellite for the first time and at the same time provides meaningful performance benefits. Low latency is a key differentiator, which audibly improves voice quality and avoids the TCP slow start effect that limits the data rates achievable over existing satellite solutions to a few hundred kilobits per second. O3bCell offers the best performance at the best price.