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NewSat, ITC Global Team Up on Energy Strategy for Jabiru Program

By Caleb Henry | October 1, 2014
Oil rig energy

Oil rig. Photo: Pete Markham (Flickr)

[Via Satellite 10-01-2014] Australian operator NewSat and partner ITC Global have tightened their partnership to focus on opportunities in the energy sector. NewSat’s Jabiru 2 hosted payload launched recently with Measat 3b on an Ariane 5 rocket. The launch marks the beginning of the company’s constellation, with the next spacecraft, the High Throughput Satellite (HTS) Jabiru 1, currently under construction by Lockheed Martin. As NewSat embarks on the Jabiru satellite program, oil and gas will be a top priority, according to Ashley Neale, Asia Pacific sales director at NewSat.

“Jabiru 1 has been designed to support enterprise-dominant work sites primarily throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, and there is no doubt that will include a number of oil and gas networks within it,” said Neale. “Jabiru 2, on the other hand, certainly targets the oil and gas industry in the Asia-Pacific region. We already have a large customer base within the energy and mining market … that includes on shore as well as offshore.”

Prior to launching Jabiru 2, NewSat signed several anchor tenant customers in the telecommunications and military sectors. In July the company signed a three-year contract with a global satellite systems integrator. Should this customer exercise its option for a two-year extension, the contract could reach a value of $11.7 million.

Neale said Jabiru 2 specifically targets customers such as oil and gas organizations with multiple sites because they prefer to have general access to all of their sites within the same bandwidth pool. The hosted payload was designed with this customer focus in mind.

“What we like about what we see on the Jabiru platform is that the [Effective Isotropic Radiated Power] EIRP and on the uplink the [antenna gain] G/T ratio is being optimized not just for where there are population centers but rather where there are resource projects and energy or oil and gas projects,” said Chris Hill, CTO, ITC Global. “That’s where our customer base resides,” he said, adding that NewSat’s Perth teleport was also a strategic benefit in serving the Asia Pacific.

The oil and gas sector in particular is experiencing a gradual transition from legacy systems to IP-centric platforms. As the trend of digitization continues, Hill notes that older systems are not being replaced with equivalent systems, but instead rigs are choosing much more powerful platforms to handle growing needs.

For example, high definition video streaming is on the rise, which may be required on occasion for days at a time. Some NewSat and ITC Global customers use video to provide multicast capabilities to their remote sites for troubleshooting and maintenance. Video also cuts down on expensive travel costs, replacing helicopter trips with satellite links. This increase in site-generated content necessitates larger antennas to support uplinking the 1.4 to 2 Mbps video streams. Machine-to-Machine (M2M) is also gaining traction, according to Neale, as automating certain practices removes the risks associated with having employees handle certain tasks. These evolutions are pushing a sector that is otherwise reluctant to change into higher-bandwidth applications.

“I still remember when people used to think 1 Mbps circuit was a bit extravagant, and now the average customer is well and truly into the tens of Mbps,” said Hill. “We haven’t seen much approaching 100 Mbps yet for the bandwidth that people expect to achieve on a per circuit basis, rather than the amount a customer needs across all their sites, but bandwidth for a single site, people expect to be able to break the 10 Mbps on a regular basis, and bandwidth of 40 or 60 Mbps are actually commonly required.”

Currently NewSat’s Jabiru 2 provides Ku-band coverage over all of Australia, and allocates a significant fraction of its power to serving the northwest shelf of the country, which is a hot spot for the energy market. The company’s next spacecraft, the Ka-band Jabiru 1, focuses on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Three more satellites are currently planned to, once complete, create a near-global coverage footprint. Neale said NewSat is seeing continued growth today in the Asia Pacific, MENA and Australia. The company currently holds rights to eight orbital slots, providing room for even more growth. Neale added that the energy sector would continue to influence future satellites.

“The BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China — we’re keeping an eye on those areas for future Jabiru progress,” he said.