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Satcom Global strengthens Ku-band VSAT network

Satcom Global has added a new satellite to the Ku-band Aura VSAT network, expanding coverage and capacity across the North Pacific.

The addition of NSS-6 will augment the existing satellite footprint in place over the Pacific Ocean, providing enhanced coverage and improved connectivity for Satcom Global customers sailing trans-Pacific trade routes, as well as providing additional line of sight options if they are required.

The Aura VSAT network was designed to grow with Satcom Global’s maritime customer base, ensuring optimum service quality for the lifetime of the customer contract. Additional bandwidth is added to the network organically with each customer registration, ensuring that service does not degrade over time and that Committed Information Rates are always fulfilled.

Satcom Global is proactively adding new assets to the footprint to support emerging requirements for coverage and bandwidth in key geographies.  iDirect Velocity, the platform on which Aura operates, was specifically designed to enable VSAT service providers like Satcom Global to deploy managed HTS and multi-spot beam architectures, consisting of increasingly more beams, frequencies, and throughput. The scalable platform provides enhanced network support and control functionality, capable of supporting the growing connectivity needs of customers long into the future.

NSS-6 sits in geostationary orbit with 60 high-power Ku-band transponders which can be flexibly allocated to its 6 Ku-band broad beams. The satellite, which also has 12 super-high-gain Ka-band spot beams is owned and operated by SES S.A., Satcom Global’s primary network supplier for the Aura service. This latest network enhancement follows the addition of SES-14 and SES-15 HTS beams to Satcom Global’s flagship VSAT network in early 2020.

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    Greek shipmanager A.M. Nomikos has chosen KVH AgilePlans to provide VSAT connectivity for crew welfare and vessel operations.

  • How much does a merchant ship pay for its VSAT communications?

    Many years ago and in another industry, not so distant from maritime connectivity… I wrote a piece providing viewpoints on “how much an airline would pay for an early release movie (early window content is the industry term). The piece got me into a considerable amount of bother, writes Joshua Flood, senior research consultant at Valour Consultancy.

    The fundamental issue being how secretive these negotiations were and Hollywood studios, airlines and their content service providers did not wish to shed any light upon the subject. Or I was terribly wrong in my viewpoints. I will stick to the former point.

    Now after many years elsewhere, (similar to Yoda in swamp planet of Dagobah), I have decided to return to one of my favorite types of pieces.

    To push myself further, I plan to write a series of pieces talking about how each type of commercial vessel (merchant, fishing, passenger, offshore and leisure) would pay for their connectivity solutions, typically VSAT and MSS.

    Merchant satellite subscriptions

    Addressing the title of this piece, merchant ships come in a number of shapes, sizes and purposes.

    Breaking out the merchant market from a bird’s eye view; there are roughly 150,000 MSS and VSAT satellite subscriptions in the market. This may confuse some, due to the popularly touted figure of 80-90,000 merchant vessels (depending on your source and classifications). Clearly, this number is less than the number of maritime satellite subscriptions.

    To quickly quash this, a significant number of large merchant vessels require multiple terminals for safety purposes. In addition, some vessels will also subscribe to a multitude of solutions for certain purposes. An example could be subscribing Ku-band VSAT services from Intelsat or Eutelsat, Fleetbroadband from Inmarsat and Certus from Iridium.

    Emergence of VSAT technology

    In the past, merchant operators were satisfied with just MSS (L-band) services, however, over the last decade the use of VSAT technology has become a dominant force within all commercial maritime vessels. There are around 20,000 VSAT merchant vessels active today.

    Looking into the key types of merchant vessels. There is an array of different variations. And when speaking about shipping, certain regions are known for their trade. Asia and Northern Europe for commodity and container vessels, as an example.

    Extra special LNGs

    One of my favourite research interviews of 2021 was with a Cypriot service provider. I won’t say which one or whom, however, it was most definitely one of my most entertaining.

    It was almost like having a conversation with the Cheshire Cat in Alice of Wonderland. I went through a list of vessel types with “the Cat” providing their average monthly airtime fees the company gets for connectivity airtime packages. Bulk carriers, a short grunt and allocated to the bottom of the list of data usage and associated ARPU revenue. MPP and ro-ro vessels followed in quick succession, just above bulk carriers. General cargo and container vessels pique his interest and were placed in middle position of the rankings. PCC and vehicle carriers excite Mr Cat further.

    Finally, we reached tankers, and LPG and LNG types cropped up.

    With a delightful purr, “Beautiful, Joshua! We love both, although LNGs are extra special. LNGs are our favourites!”

    I still chuckle at this answer.

    VSAT connectivity – let’s talk numbers

    Moving away from this abstract narrative, the merchant market is highly fragmented and different vessel types have a big difference in their respective airtime ARPU, depending on usage type, areas of coverage and congestion of such areas.

    In general, globally, the VSAT connectivity ARPU for a bulk carrier will just surpass $1,300 per month. An LNG tanker will be in the range of $3,000 to $4,000 per month with lucrative value-add service inclusions.

    As such, the customer type and their fleet of vessels are very important. Also, I will also state the more prestigious customers know how valuable their business is worth and therefore expect very good service and also heavy discounts. In fact, some prestige names are not as lucrative as some outsiders perceive.

    In 2019, Valour Consultancy estimated the average connectivity package per merchant vessel was around $800 (combining both MSS and VSAT services). MSS service per vessel are less than $500 per month generally.

    For Ku-band, this works out around $1,500 and Ka-band around $1,300. The latter will have gone up in 2020, too. For more information on the final point and our latest maritime connectivity research, please download our latest report brochure for more information here.

    Average Monthly Connectivity Revenues in Merchant Vessel in 2019

    MSS only

    <$500

    MSS & VSAT

    $800

    Ku-band

    $1,500

    Ka-band

    $1,300 (this will have increased in 2020 & 2021)

    Bulk Carrier

    $1,300

    LNG

    $3,000 to $4,000

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    OneWeb has confirmed its successful launch of 34 satellites by Arianespace from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, bringing OneWeb’s total in-orbit constellation to 322 satellites.

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