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Satcom Global launches AuraNow VSAT for maritime users

Satcom Global has launched a new maritime VSAT solution that allows vessel managers and owners to make unlimited changes to their onboard connectivity. Customers can upgrade, downgrade and even suspend their service on-demand via a dedicated and secure customer portal, without penalisation.

As vessels require increasing capacity to support more sophisticated digital applications, balancing the communications budget can be challenging.  With bandwidth packages charged via daily increment, AuraNow allows customers to adjust their connectivity and spend, in line with their day to day and emerging requirements.

AuraNow allows shipowners and IT managers to access a wide range of new applications onboard for a short period of time with minimal cost implications. Bandwidth can be upgraded at any time, at the touch of a button, to support activities such as remote audits, vessel inspections and crew training.

Similarly, maritime industries that operate seasonally or on a charter basis, will have the ability to deploy communications only when they are needed, and when vessels are sailing. Vessels will no longer need to overcommit to plans or pay for bandwidth they do not consistently need.

AuraNow is managed by a one-stop, easy to use portal. As well as the ability to make direct changes to vessel bandwidth packages, the portal also provides access to a range of useful network statistics and metrics, live vessel tracking, Ku-band coverage beams, and invoicing and management information.

“AuraNow is a true industry first, designed to support the real needs of the communications user, rather than to capitalise on locking customers into prohibitive lengthy contracts. AuraNow is the only platform optimised to satisfy the connectivity required by the maritime community now, and long into the future. We urge all vessel managers and owners to explore the extensive benefits of AuraNow, before committing to yet another restrictive service plan,” said Ian Robinson, CEO at Satcom Global.

A number of early adopters including PACC Ship and Pritchard-Gordon Tankers are already users of the new maritime VSAT solution.

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  • 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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