All posts by maritimeinsight

More threats (and opportunities) for the VSAT vendors

A final dispatch from the recent GVF seminar in London, not because it didn’t bear reporting sooner, more that it might serve as a springboard going forward.

Amid optimistic forecasts of a doubling of maritime satellite communications terminals over the next decade and the rush towards High Throughput Satellite offerings by Inmarsat, Intelsat, O3B and others, it always pays to listen the person who has run the numbers on the demand side.

Roger Adamson whose company Stark Moore McMillan, has been running a rule over the maritime market for a couple of years with help from iDirect, used his speaking slot to point out that a ‘re-acquaintance’ with the maritime market would always be an illuminating process.

Adamson’s most salient point was to remind the vendors that shipping is still a highly fragmented market – with some 9,000 owners out there, 4,000 of which own but a single ship.

The cruise sector, VSAT’s traditional arena of operation, is far more consolidated with some 300 vessels, 175 of which are controlled by three players. Similarly the offshore support vessel segment is spoken of as a VSAT hunting ground. But as Adamson pointed out, even though the OSV sector has close to 10,000 ships, at least half are idle or laid up and 30% are 25 years or older.

The even more interesting news for those selling fat pipe solutions is that vendors of VSAT and L-band alike – are selling into a market that is at a high level at least, far from sophisticated.

SMM’s survey found that 48% of owners are still using the obsolete Inmarsat-B, 75% of them for primary voice communications. As Adamson pointed out, “we are dealing with a market that is still at 9.6kbps data.”

Spending on L-band is stable at around $1,000 per vessel per month, whether on B, Fleet or FleetBroadband. In 2010 VSAT customers were spending $3,500 per month on average. By this year that had fallen to $2,600 reflecting price pressure and increased competition.

Despite the increased incentives, Adamson said, the realities of today’s market would constrain a wholesale move towards VSAT on grounds of price.

“The slower growth in VSAT market is partly due to market conditions. The niche is becoming well penetrated, but it is also down to VSAT industry not communicating ROI properly. Sales have to be on quantifiable benefits not on functionality,” he said.

“The shipping industry is in survival mode in most sectors and it is not focussed on IT and comms, unless you can provide them with clear ROI benefits as to why they should be moving to VSAT and spending 2.5 times more than they are currently spending,” he went on.

Trouble is, Adamson thinks VSAT vendors are not communicating the benefits effectively enough. Not only is there a reluctance to invest in technology, there is a genuine aversion to the kind of long fixed-term contracts that characterise VSAT. He noted the newest kid on the block O3B was offering “fixed terms of 5-10 years and to be honest that’s not where the market is. They may take a few off the top, but it’s unlikely to find much sympathy in the broader commercial market”.

In bulk, tankers and containers, owners are likely to be laying up tonnage, so there is little appetite to pay for airtime when the ship is idle. Even when they are sailing – often below operating costs – the benefits are hard to quantify.

“When iDirect asked customers whether fitting VSAT had generated cost savings, 60% said no, 20% said yes and 20% said not sure,” he continued. “I’m convinced that that VSAT can deliver savings but nobody has as yet started to look closely at the process.”

The difference is that where Inmarsat was an easy sell to IT managers and superintendents, the cost and complexity of VSAT needs to be sold at board level, where a story that frames the potential efficiency gains across whole business can gain wider approval.

The next uncomfortable fact is that the majority of tier two owners – regional or coastal players – are unlikely go to VSAT while GSM coverage in coastal waters continues to improve.

“My take on where VSAT is going is beyond offshore and cruise and into the tanker sector. There is a huge charterer requirement for data coming off the vessel and this could be the next big market for VSAT providers. There are 15,000 ships in the clean and products trades and they are starting to become receptive to the VSAT business case.”

But there was a twist in the tail – or perhaps just another contradiction in this most fickle of markets. The SMM survey found a big increase in data usage, but the majority of the new traffic on L-Band and VSAT is for crew welfare rather than for shipmanagement applications.

“The effect is even becoming pronounced for VSAT users,” Adamson noted. “Where business efficiency was the killer app in 2010, the importance of crew welfare had increased by 2012, with VSAT a driver to increased retention for crews wanting to use instant messaging and other social media applications.”

Globecomm Maritime helps Pacific rower Charlie Martell pull through

Charlie Martell sets off from Choshi in his attempt to row solo and unsupported 4,500 miles to San Francisco.

The latest news from my client Globecomm Maritime – one good turn deserves another and this guy spent a lot of time upside down.

Charlie Martell had no illusions about rowing single-handed across the Northern Pacific but as a Royal Engineer Commando, he is clearly a man who relishes a challenge.

In setting out from Choshi, Japan on May 4 to row solo and unsupported 4,500 miles to San Francisco, he aimed to set new world records for the fastest crossing of the North Pacific Ocean, the first unsupported row across the Pacific Ocean and be the first solo Briton to make the crossing, as well as raising funds for three charities.

This was no spur of the moment jaunt either. Charlie had spent three years planning the trip and his ocean rowing boat, Blossom, was kitted out with the most up to date equipment available, including a SatLink Inmarsat FB150 system, provided by Globecomm Maritime, with airtime provided by Inmarsat.

“Five weeks into the row and some 700 miles from Choshi, I was hit by Tropical Storm Mawar,” says Martell. “I knew the storm was tracking towards me but there was little I could do, apart from remove all the loose items from the deck and secure the forward and aft cabins,” Martell says.

Martell knew Mawar was in fact a downgraded typhoon but he was unprepared for the storm’s ferocity.

“I had been secure in my cabin for about two days even though I had capsized four times. I was using the FB150 handset to make a phone call when I capsized a fifth time. What was amazing was that the call barely cut out during the capsize. My shore support commented on how clear the voice communications were and with no time lapse!” he laughs.

The battering continued but what he calls ‘pretty standard’ lateral capsizes were overshadowed by number seven, which saw Blossom, with Martell strapped into his bunk, pitch-pole forwards with disastrous results.

“As Blossom hit the water, the aft cabin bulkhead took the full force of the impact with water and she sustained some damage,” he continues. “During the capsize, the rudder, VHF and AIS antennae were ripped off as were two of my spare oars. When Blossom had self-righted, I checked the damage, activated my EPIRB and our emergency response plan was put into practice.”

Once the EPIRB was activated, coast guards from Japan and the UK contacted Charlie via the FB150, which had continued to work despite the pounding the storm had inflicted. He had to wait another 36 hours in the storm until the Gibraltar-flagged, British-owned bulk carrier Last Tycoon could divert to pick him up.

“The next 36 hours were a long wait – I reckon there were a further 13 or so lateral capsizes but I maintained communications with both my shore support team in the UK and the coastguards. My thanks go to all those who helped me – the crew of Last Tycoon, the coastguards and of course to Globecomm and Inmarsat, who kept me connected, even when I was upside down!”

Trevor Whitworth, Senior Vice President Sales & Marketing, Globecomm Maritime said:

“We were proud to support Charlie in his endeavour and even though he wasn’t able complete the crossing, he showed a huge amount of character and commitment. Seafarers around the world face similar challenges every day of the week and Globecomm is committed to keeping them in touch too, whatever the weather.”

For further information on the charities Charlie is supporting, click here: http://www.pacific2012.com/charities-2. To read Charlie’s blog, click here: http://www.pacific2012.com/archives/category/pacific-2012-news.

You’ve never had it so good – as long as you aren’t at sea

To judge by many of the presentations at the Global VSAT Forum event in London last week, the shipping industry has never had it so good – in terms of communications at least. Prices are falling, choice is broadening and access to social media is growing, overturning decades in which patchy and expensive communications were the norm.

Not so fast, says Mark Woodhead, managing director of Headland Media. We may be living in a golden age of communications on land but it’s not the same at sea. As a demonstration, he got the audience to acknowledge who had made a call, checked, email, surfed the web or used social media in the course of the first conference session.

By contrast, most seafarers he said are ‘living in the late 1990s’ in terms of communications infrastructure and the fact that we take our connectivity for granted should not stop us forgetting that few seafarers enjoy anything like this level of connectedness. Given the importance that the IMO for one places on the ‘human element’ in shipping, this is something we should be concerned about.

“The first thing I did when planning this speech was to turn off all my gadgets and work out what I was going to say. That is the life that many seafarers have today,” he said. Headland has a daily relationship with 9,000 vessels and 200,000 seafarers, distributing news and entertainment as well as training and safety films.

Woodhead turned his connections back on to email questions on the opportunities that technology and connectivity presented to Headland Media’s clients and got 100 replies,  some running to multiple pages. As this was not a formal process, he backed it up with the ITF’s 2010 seafarer survey, but the results were closely aligned.

“From what I got, I conclude that between 10 and 50% of seafarers have access to email onboard ship. Hardly any have private email accounts, they are usually fixed to the ship and accessed by master. Hardly any have access to attachments,” he said.

Where email is provided, messages are often restricted to 3,000 characters. Some are charged for sending and receiving emails and these are almost always batched, meaning they go off the ship in a pre-determined time window rather than real-time.

“If that was how we were getting our email on land, we’d have a different attitude and we’d use it in a very different way,” he observed wryly. If he was surprised by that response, there was worse to come. “For internet access, by which I mean the ability to surf the web, the ITF found that almost 20% had access. From the information we got, it is less than 10%. Some have access in port but most are going to seamen’s mission or internet cafés.”

One anecdote he harvested was of a seafarer who got off a vessel and sat on the pavement for three hours to get into an internet café. The harbour side bars opposite were mostly empty while people queued up for web access.

“All this makes you realise this isn’t just something seafarers want, it’s beginning to be fundamental. Even though merchant shipping is going through hard times, retention and recruitment are still very difficult. Most of the people in that 10% with web access told me they would never sign contract for a ship which didn’t have internet access. Three or four were happy to sign a nine month contract on ships with internet access rather than six months on ships that didn’t,” he added.

The killer app here is Skype, the modern-day phone call and text machine in one – most seafarers never used its video calling functionality. Seafarers also want to be able to use email afloat as they do ashore – in private with attachments. They also want to be entertained, with social media, instant messaging, video, film and news from home.

But as Woodhead pointed out, his respondents were equally as interested in what they could use this connectivity for professionally as personally.

“They want chart updates, information on piracy, safety and security information, updates on regulations, trends in shipping. More and more of them realise that regulations are increasingly important and serious for them. They also want to use connections to research answers to problems onboard. They would rather search forums or the web than phone the office,” he added.

There are a handful of intriguing statements to unpack there, but the main takeaway is that better connectivity might help to save time (and therefore money) and improve performance and safety and boost quality of life. That’s a good deal for a few megabytes of data per month.

What is stopping greater connectivity can basically be defined as cost and control. Neither should stand in the way of better availability of services to crew, Woodhead reckoned. The competitive nature of market is driving down costs and control, either through bandwidth management to separate business from leisure traffic, or means to control virus and unauthorised access risk, is commonly available.

“Modern routers and software can easily sort the bandwidth problem out. It’s also easy to establish a walled garden that pushes users to approved sites. We act as ISP for 600 vessels providing spam filtering and anti-virus and we have not had a problem. Probably a bigger issue for the content owners at least, is copyright.”

As Woodhead sees it, if there is a responsibility to control the technology, there is a greater responsibility to provide the access. To a shipping company it can make a difference to whether or not they attract and retain the seafarers they need. Access to communications also forms part of the guidelines to the Maritime Labour Convention. Responsible managers will want to be seen as compliant and in any case the direction of travel is set.

“We are at a tipping point, the first time where cost, regulations infrastructure and seafarer demand are all pulling the same direction. It’s time we trust the crew to use these services responsibly. Welfare is a key element but better connectivity offers significant entertainment and professional opportunities too.”

You want to get where? Well, I wouldn’t start from here…

Intermanager secretary-general Kuba Szymanski has what might be described as a ‘combative’ style. This is the man who once made a presentation on risk management comparing the chartering process to dating his teenage daughter, leaving no-one in any doubt on what would be required to prove one’s suitability.

He’s no stranger to a challenge either. A couple of week-ends ago, he completed an 85 mile ‘Parish Walk’ around the Isle of Man for charity in 23 hours 50 minutes. At the GVF Maritime Insights 2012 event last week, Szymanski took another challenge: telling a roomful of VSAT vendors that they needed to up their game if they wanted to sell systems to shipmanagers and owners.

He began with a prescient comparison. The sextant is still a compulsory piece of equipment onboard, yet it is rarely if ever used. Szymanski admitted only his personal stubbornness meant that he still used one at all.

“I needed 18 months of training to be qualified on something haven’t used in anger in 20 years. But I could use the VSAT 100 times a day. How much training do I have on VSAT? Zero. Without VSAT we can still navigate, but take away the sextant and we cannot.”

The VSAT vendors needed a reality check, he suggested. Why was there no certificate of proficiency for computers? If VSAT is so important why is there no training? It is little use telling managers that an eight year old could use VSAT because a 48 year old would struggle.

For comparison, when Szymanski was at sea in 1985 the latest cutting edge computer was the ZX Spectrum and computer use onboard ship was barely heard of. The speed of change since then has surpassed all expectations but inside the shipping industry some things haven’t changed at all.

A master, he explained works on contract, is highly paid, works long hours – is expected to get on with things and expects things to work. This was relatively simple when GMDSS was introduced because Inmarsat’s regulated status meant high reliability, a standard seafarers became used to.

“We still whinged about it, but it was reliable. But all of sudden new systems appeared. Our expectation was similar, but this equipment does 40-60% of what was promised. It has immediately got a bad name because it was sold on the premise that it would be the same if not better than Inmarsat and it never was. We cannot get the same reliability from VSAT that our charterers expect from us,” he said.

If VSAT was sold in the same way as charters were negotiated, he said, then users would be defaulting on their bills. Part of the problem he said was that there is no definition of broadband.

“You would all have one but they wouldn’t all agree. You can’t deliver on something you can’t define. If I am paying $3,000 a month for 24/7 broadband but you are delivering 23.59/7 then I shouldn’t be paying you,” he declared.

This, as you might expect didn’t go down terribly well with the assembled VSAT sellers and I felt more than a twinge of sympathy for them. Szymanski got a lesson from delegates on ‘best effort’, contention ratios, maximum information rates and the rest, but he was not to be deflected. This was a challenge that was turning into a crusade.

“Our expectations are not flexible. This is what we wanted and you haven’t delivered. The problem is you don’t know the industry you are selling to. You haven’t done your homework so it is not a surprise that our expectations are not met,” he continued.

Those who know and admire Szymanski of course knew where this was driving: the Key Performance Indicators project that he has embarked on for Intermanager, based on his experience that it is pretty difficult to measure something if you don’t know where to hold one end of the tape. This is not to say that he did not want the VSAT guys to succeed – this was the Global VSAT Forum after all – and the whole point is to encourage better, cost-effective solutions that are easy for owners to adopt and use.

GVF will be looking into how to run a similar KPI programme on VSAT and by the next event, I suspect we will see the vendors come back with reinforcements – they will need some pretty heavy weapons.

“When seafarers can choose between a ship with internet and one without for the same salary, then there is a good argument for VSAT, but unfortunately there is nothing tangible to go with. We need to call a spade a spade and to know how big the glass is.

“I can only see benefits but we need to show a baseline. We have never measured how much it costs when you lose a master and VSAT makes this kind of difference. At the moment, you are selling something we can’t measure.”

It’s not (just) about the money

So what did we learn from the first day of the GVF conference in London? Enough for plenty of future blog posts – but the over-riding takeaway from Wednesday was that satcom vendors need to understand more about shipping.

And on the flip side, shipowners and managers need to understand more about satcoms.

This double negative effect – whereby the vendor has little idea about what the owner really needs and prefers to seal a deal at any price, while the buyer is more likely a superintendent than an IT specialist – is creating problems once the kit is delivered and onboard.

Several times yesterday, the sheer number of satellite acronyms and numbers per second demonstrated what makes satcoms people tick. They are geeks. That’s not meant as an insult – they just have more in common with The Big Bang Theory than they do with, say, The Six Million Dollar Man.

Buyers, it seems are equally in the dark about what they need to do the job and how reliable and effective it is going to be once they are on the ocean. At times nervous of what their ignorance might reveal – also price driven and advised seemingly by what they read in the maritime press as much as by their own research – they sometimes make bad decisions.

It’s not all bad. Demetris Makaritis of Navigator Gas said his company was pleased to get a fixed monthly price for a mini-VSAT installation but observed wryly that the service was good ‘when it worked’. He also said the coverage was not what he had been led to believe, in part because he had fitted an antenna smaller than the recommended size.

Perhaps, a few of us pondered, that was an oversight, perhaps a cost saving, perhaps an absent-minded error. But it left him, not exactly back where he started, but longing for better system uptime and reliability.

Navigator’s LPG ships are pretty hi-tech and having done his own cost analysis, he was pleased with the 30% reduction in comms bills he achieved. But he admitted he would ‘happily pay more for bandwidth’ if the service was more reliable.

Finding out that India to Singapore was pretty much missing from the coverage, along with parts of the Mediterranean is not a nice feeling to have, one which left him to advise, ‘if you don’t can’t guarantee the coverage, don’t put it in your marketing’.

In an aside that certainly made him the most popular man in the lunch break, he said these doubts meant that he was far from certain which solution to go for on six LPG newbuildings.

How Makaritis and perhaps many another owner and manager found themselves with a system that wasn’t all it promised, was illustrated by Kaushik Roy of MOL LNG.

MOL is, like Navigator, a quality operator that invests in operation efficiency and crew welfare alike, but Roy was frank enough to say that owners would sometimes end up specifying systems because they lacked the knowledge to challenge what they were being sold.

There was not enough benchmarking or gap analysis and expectations on either side were often not known or understood clearly. Equally, he said the satcom sales person often had little or no technical knowledge about shipping or shipmanagement they ‘just wanted the contract’.

Again the issue is not entirely about money. Roy said MOL LNG’s move to VSAT had seen its comms costs rise modestly, but this was a price it was willing to pay for the value that the fatter pipe brought the company.

As conference co-chair Kuba Szymanski of Intermanager pointed out, it was something of a tragedy that more Radio Officers, which were ‘retired’ as computers replaced wireless onboard ship did not find employment with satcom companies.

If they had, both sides might be talking the same language.

Giving meaning to (Marine) money

I’m in NYC for Marine Money and the lunch speaker on the first day was John Wood of educational charity Room to Read. It reminded me that I wrote a blog post about R2R last year after first hearing John speak. Its original client declined to publish it (they had a pretty simplistic view on training and education back then) so here it is. All still relevant I’m pleased to say, except that Marine Money has since put its money where its mouth is and has funded a R2R school in Sri Lanka. Wood told delegates today that he has a West Coast benefactor prepared to match six similar donations made during Marine Money.

Giving meaning to (Marine) money

Ship finance and social standards in the Third World do not on the face of it make likely bedfellows. The former, expressed at its apogee in Marine Money Week in New York City is after all a playground of bankers, lawyers and owners engaged in the pursuit of money.

Here the talk is of billions of dollars worth of equity participation, revolving credit and bullet loans – with no prizes for coming second. But delegates at lunch on Wednesday got a taste of how they could do something to change the world for good, while continuing to make as much money as possible.

John Wood’s epiphany came on a sabbatical from his job at Microsoft – a break he said he took “to get away from Steve Balmer shouting”. In a village in Nepal he visited a local school and this self-confessed ‘book nerd’ asked to see the library.

He was shown a completely empty room. Stunned but moved by the commitment of the teachers, he decided to do something. What he did was organise a book drive, collecting 3,000 books and taking them back to village himself.

The response of villagers convinced him of the value of providing educational opportunities or as he put it, “giving meaning to money”. Wood cheerfully admits that his decision to quit Microsoft and found the charity Room to Read “probably cost me millions”. Why it works, he suggested is because he is a businessman – with an MBA and banking experience – rather than a dedicated do-gooder.

The title of his talk ‘Why capitalists should care about developing world education’ was designed to appeal to his audience. Education he said is the cornerstone not just of better health and education but also social stability, prosperity and therefore trade. It’s a lesson learned by South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore and the potential market is still huge.

“There are 75 million children world-wide with no primary school education, 275 million with no secondary education and 780 million who are illiterate. The case is both moral and economic and it appeals to hardcore capitalists because we can help them and ourselves,” he explained.

Wood left Microsoft in 1999, scrawling ‘10m’ on a whiteboard in his home office, standing for the number of children he wanted to help by 2020. As at 2011, he is at 5m and thinks he can hit 10m by 2015.

How does he do it? A hard-nosed low-cost approach, encouraging companies to donate air miles and hotel rooms, appealing to financial sector companies as backers and persuading governments to invest in teachers. In return the people he tries to help donate their time and labour, often building schools from scratch.

He also has a ‘no Land Rover rule’ again for sound reasons – they cost $17,000 apiece, enough to educate 300 children for a year. The results are hard to argue with. Room to Read has built 1,443 schools in nine countries – opening a new school every 26 hours. It has opened 11,000 libraries – one every four hours.

There is no doubting the power of the message – nor the appeal to the shipping industry, always looking for new markets and searching for young seafarers. As Wood puts it, “You have to look at this like a supply chain. A child’s fate is decided early, but capitalists should care because economic development depends on human capital”.

For more, see: www.roomtoread.

GVF VSAT Forum programme – Day 2

Day Two – 28 June

0800-0900 – Registration & Refreshments

0900-0905

Welcome & Day Two Opening Remarks from the Chair

  • Martin Jarrold, Chief, International Programme Development, GVF

0905-0925

On the Horizon: Emerging Trends in the Maritime Communications Marketplace

  • Roger Adamson, Chief Executive, Stark Moore Macmillan & Chairman, International Maritime Sales & Marketing Association

0925-0930 – Q&A

0930-0950

VSATs at Sea & Designing Dedicated Targeted Solutions for Crew Welfare

0950-0955 – Q&A

0955-1015

Safety and Distress Maritime Communications Systems & Satellite Broadband: GMDSS in the Fixed & Mobile Environment

1015-1020- Q&A

1020-1100

Maritime ICT & Cost-Saving Integrated eProcurement Strategies

  • Wim van Noortvijk, Executive Vice President, ISSA (International Shipsuppliers & Services Association)
  • Paul Ostergaard, Founder & CEO, ShipServ

1100-1110 – Q&A

1110-1130 – Refreshments

1130-1150

The Satellite Maritime Network Management Imperative

  • Guy Adams, Vice President, Software Engineering, SatManage, iDirect

1150-1155 – Q&A

1155-1255

Maritime Sector Training Strategies & Resources: Satellite Technologies Installation/Operation & Computer-Based Training

  • Roger Ringstad, Managing Director, Seagull
  • Claire Pekcan, Senior Lecturer, Course Leader, MSc Shipping Operations, School of Maritime Training, Warsash Maritime Academy (+ student Richard Wild)
  • Greg Selzer, Account Manager, Online Learning, SatProf

1255-1305 – Q&A

1305-1325

High-Seas Networking and Hybrid Communications Solutions: Systems Resilience Profiles & Case Studies

1325-1330 – Q&A

1330-1430 – Lunch

1430-1450

The Satellite & Shipping Industries: Enhancing Understanding in the Supply & Demand Dialogue

  • Martin Jarrold, Co-Chairman, Maritime SatCom Forum, GVF
  • Capt. Kuba Szymanski, Secretary General, InterManager

1450-1500

Q&A

1500-1720

InterManager’s Maritime Industry Key Performance Indicators

1720-1730

Day Two Closing Remarks from the Chair & End of Conference

  • Martin Jarrold, Chief, International Programme Development, GVF
  • Capt. Kuba Szymanski, Secretary General, InterManager

GVF

Global VSAT Forum programme published

The GVF has published an updated draft programme for next week’s Maritime Satcoms Forum – it’s a bit of a marathon but hopefully plenty of value there. Day 1 is below – day 2 follows.

Day One – 27 June

0800-0850 – Registration & Refreshments

0850-0900

Welcome & Day One Opening Remarks from the Chair

  • Martin Jarrold, Chief, International Programme Development, GVF
  • Capt. Kuba Szymanski, Secretary General, InterManager

0900-0940

Analysing Maritime Communications Demand & Supply: Understanding the Sector’s Dynamics

  • Claude Rousseau, Senior Analyst, Northern Sky Research (NSR)
  • Richard Roithner, Director, SatCom, Euroconsult

0940-0950 – Q&A

0950-1050

Evolving the “Unlimited Broadband” Bandwidth Equation: New Evolutionary Trends in C, Ku, Ka & L Frequency Footprints for the Maritime Space

1050-1100 – Q&A

1100-1120 – Refreshments

1120-1200

Satellite Networking & Expanding Maritime Communications for an Arctic Horizon

1200-1210 – Q&A

1210-1310

Segmenting Maritime Sector Communications Services: Who Wants What and Where?

  • Bertrand Hartman, Chief Executive Officer & Carlos Carbajal, Director, Yacht Services, OmniAccess
  • Gregor Ross, Director, Sales & Marketing, Europe, Globecomm
  • Tommy Hjalmas, Chief Operating Officer, Navigator Gas

1310-1320 – Q&A

1320-1340

Evolution of Maritime Satcoms Service: SCPC for Maritime – the Past is Prologue

1340-1345 – Q&A

1345-1445 – Lunch

1445-1505

Evolution of Maritime Satcoms Service: Technical Innovation for an Expanding Market – Ka Development

  • Olivier Risse, Director for Mobile Services, Eutelsat

1505-1510 – Q&A

1510-1610

VSATs at Sea & Designing Dedicated Targeted Solutions for Multiple Parameters in Operational Ship Management: the Vessel and Company Type, the Data Volume and Crew Requirement

1610-1620 – Q&A

1620-1640 – Refreshments

1640-1700

Is Cloud Computing Part of the Future of Maritime Industry Satellite Networking?

1700-1705 – Q&A

1705-1725

Spectrum Shift: Satellite Operators, Network Providers & Deployment of New Global Broadband

  • Simon Gatty Saunt, Vice President, Sales Enterprise, Europe & CIS, SES

1725-1730 – Q&A

1730-1810

Regulatory Open Forum – Communications Inshore & on the High Seas: Who Makes the Rules? Who Enforces the Rules?

1810-1820 – Q&A

1820-1830

Day One Closing Remarks from the Chair & First Day Close

  • Martin Jarrold, Chief, International Programme Development, GVF

Global VSAT a regional game, says NSR

Satellite sector analyst Northern Sky has released a research note on the announcement by Intelsat of the EPIC high throughput satellite platform. And while NSR agrees that the launch signals a no-going back approach by FSS operators into the MSS market, it says that ultimate success will be achieved by providing regional capacity where it is most needed rather than adopting a blanket ‘global’ approach.

“The introduction of the EPIC platform by Intelsat is a signal that FSS operators are more and more convinced that the mobility market is ripe for broadband solutions at a cheaper cost per bit,” says NSR’s Claude Rousseau but he cautions that HTS capacity, previously aimed at broadband consumer markets, “is not necessarily designed to be a hit in all markets, even in the mobility segment”.

In its Mobile Satellite Services 8th Edition report, NSR noted the trend towards HTS solutions in MSS being ‘fine-tuned’ to region-by-region traffic demand.

In targeting maritime and aeronautical corridors with Intelsat-29e, Rousseau says the EPIC platform picks up the ball first kicked by Inmarsat Global Xpress, focussing coverage over high-travel/shipping routes.

Despite being later to market than Inmarsat, Intelsat’s primary advantage is that as the first Ku-band HTS service aimed at the MSS market, it will offer backwards compatibility at a higher throughput – not the case for Inmarsat, which plans a comprehensive migration from its legacy L- and Ku-band services to its Ka-band service.

Rousseau suggests this could be a costly path to walk and Inmarsat will have a challenge on its hands migrating its current customer base onto a completely new service. The fact that ‘Inmarsat’s 5th generation network coverage will bear a striking resemblance to its 4th’ should be an advantage and Rousseau suggests that “with a few thousand Ku-band customers, Inmarsat has a far broader scope and reach with its next fleet but also more ‘ground’ to cover”.

Inmarsat Maritime CEO Frank Coles has already said he doesn’t expect GX to become Inmarsat’s main offer but the fact that the satellites will be operational before Intelsat’s gives them something of a leg up.

But NSR also believes that users, “especially in the more traditional maritime market, will initially prefer to stay with what they have rather than switch to a new and unproven technology,” even if it still sees a transition taking place later in the decade as some HTS applications become more successful.

That sounds like the maritime industry to me. After all it is only a few months ago that some die-hards were complaining about the increased cost of using Inmarsat-Fleet and one gets the impression that if Inmarsat-B went on forever, some would consider that adequate for their needs.

Of course Intelsat will have to start its marketing from a much lower base. It has far less penetration of the maritime market and if the struggle to get users to adopt an ‘unproven’ service will be a challenge for Inmarsat, that must go double for Intelsat.

NSR notes that the Intelsat announcement also increases the pressure on Eutelsat, Viasat and Telenor – though mostly on Telenor since as the others have little exposure to maritime and oil and gas business. But while it concludes that the MSS market will see “more competition in high capacity business” it says most operators “will continue to fine tune their coverage to target high traffic areas and to transition customers to higher capacity services”.

Global VSAT, is after all it seems, a regional business too.

Three’s a crowd?

Tricky thing, announcing a major service launch when you are in  quiet period pre-IPO but Intelsat has managed it, confirming it will order at least two new satellites to provide a high capacity Ku-band spot beam service in the North Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions and the platform for of EpicNG.

EpicNG will include a complementary overlay to its fixed satellite network and will be fully integrated with Intelsat’s existing satellite fleet, using a combination of C-band, Ku-band and Ka-band to deliver world-wide broadband coverage.

The satellites will be in service by 2015 and 2016 respectively and if Intelsat’s sales story is right, provide four to five times more capacity per satellite than its traditional fleet with total throughput ‘in the range of 25-60 Gbps’.

Observers at first concluded that this was a total, not per-satellite figure meaning they would provide throughput at rates closer to 12Gbps in service, similar to Inmarsat’s GlobalXpress.

But late last week Intelsat confirmed that the throughput figure of 25-60 Gbps is indeed a per satellite figure – significantly greater than the GX per satellite throughput. The satellites will be integrated into its legacy maritime coverage in a move that will see it compete head-on with not just Inmarsat but Viasat too.

Intelsat has yet to confirm its distribution partners for the new service but the company has clearly decided that three is the ideal number of VSAT players in the high-end maritime communications space, where it has already operated for some years.

PS – Kudos to Intelsat for not being afraid of continuing the buzzword bingo with liberal-use of ‘customer-centric’ in all its material. Services designed for users are something we can all approve of.