Commercial fleet managers recognise the need for connectivity at sea. The financial, operational and personnel benefits are well understood, while regulatory requirements provide additional incentive for the industry’s digital transformation. So what is holding fleets back?
First, connectivity is perceived as expensive. Historically, fleets sought to use as little data as possible. In reality, the cost of a modern satellite communications solution, as low as US$25 a day for the solutions discussed here, is a fraction of the cost for other vital operational expenses.
Second, connectivity at sea is complicated. The modern commercial vessel is a seagoing office with the same IT, networking, and cyber security needs as an office on shore but without the convenience of IT personnel on board while operating in the most remote locations on earth.
One step toward reducing costs and complexity has been the rise of end-to-end maritime communications solutions. And when a single provider controls every aspect of the solution rather than simply bundling third-party components and services, fleets can further benefit from seamless integration along with a single source for comprehensive support.
While end-to-end solutions go a long way toward aiding fleet digitalisation, there remain other challenges to communications digitalisation, including equipment capex, the perceived risk of moving to a new solution, the reluctance to make long-term commitments in a variable business environment, complicated installation and logistics and potential IT obsolescence.
These hurdles are not unique to the commercial maritime world. Conveniently, other industries have solved this problem and offer a simple roadmap – software as a service (SaaS). Subscription-based with all maintenance, updates, and support handled by the provider, SaaS changed the model for the IT business by offering cost savings, greater efficiencies, and previously unattainable flexibility.
Now, the SaaS model charts a course for maritime communications with connectivity as a service (CaaS), the logical evolution of end-to-end solutions. KVH pioneered CaaS for the maritime industry in 2017 with its AgilePlans program, which delivers connectivity without risk through an all-inclusive service with no commitments, removes barriers to adopting modern VSAT technology and supports maritime business realities.
AgilePlans is a subscription model that includes antenna hardware, airtime data plans and content for crew and operations for one monthly fee. Installation is included at no cost in as many as 4,000 ports and locations worldwide while maintenance, repairs, hardware and software updates are also included at no cost. Hardware purchase, capex and down payments are eliminated, while the month-to-month subscription and zero cancellation penalties make inflexible, multi-year commitments obsolete.
Thanks to the tangible benefits for shipping companies, including expedited fleet digitalisation, the number of industry leaders making the transition to VSAT via AgilePlans is accelerating. AgilePlans shipments jumped 500% in Q1 2019 versus the previous year and another 300% in Q2 2019. AgilePlans represented more than 70% of KVH’s commercial maritime VSAT shipments in the first half of 2019 with systems being deployed on fleets worldwide.
The transformation to connected ships offers tremendous benefits to commercial fleets. Choosing a CaaS model that removes risk, increases deployment speed, and provides the flexibility fleets require to reap those benefit faster, easier and more affordably.