Orange Business Services Exec: Maritime Sector Heating Up
[Via Satellite 10-20-2015] Orange Business Services is seeing a shift in the maritime sector toward greater use of satellite services. The company has experienced exponential growth over the last 18 months in maritime, according to Michel Verbist, director of business development for satellite solutions at Orange Business Services, compared to other verticals such as natural resources, which are more impacted by current economic conditions.
“What I see now is a lot of customers, even the more resistant ones, are moving — maybe slowly, but they are moving — to VSAT,” Verbist told Via Satellite.
Orange Business Services has invested significantly in maritime recently. In September, the company introduced Maritime Connect, an integrated platform providing different functions such as IP routing, Wide Area Network (WAN) optimization, unified threat management, account management, link switching, Wi-Fi, server virtualization and other services. Orange Business Services also upgraded its teleport in Bercenay-en-Othe, France with a 7.6-meter C-band antenna and a 5.6-meter Ka-band antenna from the ASC Signal division of Communications and Power Industries (CPI).
“The maritime vertical is definitely the most interesting market for our satellite business. I believe the maritime sector has been for many decades in a kind of ‘stone age’ due to the prevalence of limited communications infrastructures. Now, customers are starting to realize the benefits they can get by expanding their networks to manage their fleets more efficiently, achieve fuel savings, and outsource certain tasks to the shore,” said Verbist.
Verbist identified cost savings, crew welfare and improved vessel management as top reasons for the upshift in maritime activity.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) is obliging shipping companies to have Internet access and other features such as basic telemedicine, which is creating an impetus for satellite connectivity. Furthermore, connectivity has become a new must-have as companies seek to hire new talent.
“Unlike the previous generation, younger crew members are not going to accept working on a vessel if they don’t have Facebook, email or chat functions. These are social lifelines back home,” said Verbist.
He added that while companies put differing levels of value on connectivity for crew welfare, vessel management remains another big driver. Verbist said VSAT enabled capabilities such as videoconferencing, electronic navigation, data exchange on cargo and regulatory information and customs are catalysts for demand.
“For example, thanks to the always-on VSAT link, ship owners are able to detect issues in advance that, without always-on connection, would lead to outages while the vessel is on sea. In this last case, the vessel would suffer from an outage that would lead the vessel to go to the shipyard for repair. By being able to anticipate such issues, a lot of the issues can be fixed while the vessel is at sea and, as a consequence, avoid expensive repairs in the shipyard and loss of revenues while the vessel is not navigating,” Verbist explained.
The energy sector within maritime has similar demands, but is challenged by the drastic drop in oil prices. Verbist said that though declining oil prices could limit activity in this sector — particularly if new oil from Iran drives prices even lower — it could present an opportunity for Orange Business Services, which is not an incumbent service provider in the market, to nab new contracts.
Orange Business Services is continuing to invest in satellite infrastructure for maritime, along with other verticals. Verbist said the company opened a new teleport in South Korea earlier this year, bringing the total number of teleports to 16. He said Orange is also differentiating its services by terminating the space segment on its Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) terrestrial backbone network and providing end-to-end services.
“We are investing in newer teleport capabilities in different places around the world. For example, we are using four teleports in the Americas, we have a couple of teleports we are using in the Asia-Pacific region, and a couple we are using in Europe, meaning we are able to offer a global footprint in C-band and Ku-band in the space segment. We have now started to deploy Ka-band service over Europe and are looking to further increase our footprint in other regions,” he said.
Thanks largely to growth in maritime and energy, Orange Business Services is seeing new growth in the Americas and the Asia Pacific. Verbist said the company sees increased activities in maritime hubs such as Greece, Germany, Norway, South East Asia and elsewhere too.
Orange Business Services has around 5 GHz of total capacity, which the company leases from Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat and other operators. Verbist said High Throughput Satellite (HTS) systems will provide more opportunities, such as reaching data rates of 100 Mbps, and providing a greater diversity of technology options in C, Ku and Ka band.