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RigNet Gets Sizeable Revenue Boost From Inmarsat’s Former Enterprise Energy Business

By Caleb Henry | August 6, 2014
Oil rig SCADA

An oil rig towing. Photo: Jay Phagan (Flickr)

[Via Satellite 08-06-2014] Nearly a quarter of RigNet’s revenue for the second quarter of the fiscal year came from the $25 million acquisition of Inmarsat’s enterprise energy business unit, which the company purchased in January. RigNet confirmed the profitability of its new assets during its second quarter earnings call, where it reported that of $80.7 million in revenue, $19.2 million came from the former Inmarsat business unit.

Through the acquisition, RigNet took ownership of Inmarsat’s microwave network operating across the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, its Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) business in North America, and became a distribution partner for Inmarsat’s L-band services. RigNet is also a Value Added Reseller (VAR) for Global Xpress for five years.

Mark Slaughter, CEO, president and director of RigNet, said that 70 percent of Inmarsat’s former business has been meshed into RigNet operations throughout the Western Hemisphere. The company recently rotated its management team to further integrate the business. Slaughter said that while the number of oilrigs the company covers is increasing, the main source of growth came from heightening demand placed by existing sites.

“Increasing digitization of the oilfield likely means more revenue growth going forward will come from [Average Rate Per User] ARPU than from site count additions … our total organic satellite bandwidth purchase per customer increased by approximately 37 percent over the same period last year, with the majority of the increase being used to serve offshore drilling rigs,” said Slaughter.

Nearly two-thirds of new revenue came from elevated ARPUs, with the rest coming from new rigs. Slaughter said satellite bandwidth upgrades, such as value-added solutions, and the addition of multiple customers at the same sites have become catalysts for growth. The amount of bandwidth required per site continues to increase.

“The average bandwidth per customer per rig today is around 1 megabyte,” he said. “By 2017, the average bandwidth per customer is expected to be a bit over 2 megabytes. What we are seeing anecdotally is that we see some customers well in excess of that.”

One customer in particular is using 8 mbps, though Slaughter said this is not the norm. Going forward, RigNet may look to extend the microwave network further to the drilling community. The company reportedly has a customer interested in using microwave to serve deep-water rigs, in which case satellite would move to a back up role. Currently the microwave network covers 25,000 square miles and includes terrestrial wireless overlay for last mile connectivity.

Slaughter said the company is expanding the role of microwave to service energy maritime vessels as well.

For satellite, RigNet anticipates Inmarsat’s Global Xpress will play a larger role in oilfield services because this is a highly mobile sector where satellite would have an advantage. The company plans to bring additional capabilities online once the full GX constellation is deployed. For now, Slaughter said RigNet is looking to use whatever solution works best, whether that is satellite or not.

“In the near term, where we’re focused is trying to integrate those capabilities within our existing portfolio of solutions. For example, where we provide broadband satellite or VSAT services to offshore rigs, we can now introduce L-band offerings as integrated fail-over and backups. In the case of jack-ups, that can keep communications going during rig moves. Or otherwise, it can serve as a separate network to improve the redundancy and reliability of our solutions,” he said.

With the acquisition RigNet now controls all of Inmarsat’s former energy broadband assets — except for those in Russia — allowing it to continue making greater strides in this vertical. Slaughter said the integration of Inmarsat’s energy assets is continuing on schedule, and should be fully completed by the end of the year.