Digital technologies that enhance maritime operations, fleet and vessel management and crew resourcing will drive shipowners to install VSAT on their vessels next year.
Satellite operators and VSAT service providers are banking on digitalisation generating huge amounts of revenues from data transmissions in 2019.
This is more than just crystal ball gazing, I have solid intelligence from some pretty reliable sources.
When I visited Thales Alenia Space’s satellite integration and testing facility in Rome, Italy, to see four new satellites being prepared for launch, Thales Alenia's head of Italian operations Donato Amoroso told me that digitalisation of maritime operations will generate more demand for VSAT services and thus, requirements for additional satellites.
SES executive vice president for technology Stewart Sanders was also on hand during the tour to show off the final four satellites for SES’ O3b medium Earth orbit constellation that are scheduled for launch in March 2019.
Mr Sanders said he, too, is expecting an increase in VSAT demand during 2019 as shipowners need increasing bandwidth to handle more digital and online applications. Mr Sanders fully expects to deliver this increased bandwidth through SES’ fleet of geostationary and MEO satellites to commercial shipping, passenger ships, offshore support vessels, leisure boats, fishing vessels and potentially parts of the workboats sector that have not yet considered VSAT as a priority.
Looking closer to the earthly side of the value chain, companies such as KVH Industries provide the hardware and services for VSAT to be extended into more areas of maritime. When I met KVH chief operating officer Brent Bruun and KVH executive vice president of mobile connectivity Mark Woodhead in London in early December, they forecast an acceleration in VSAT adoption in 2019.
Huge data transmissions and analysis due to the deployment of internet of things (IoT) technology in maritime will drive demand in 2019, they said, allowing further performance monitoring of marine machinery, ship management and crew competence.
They also anticipate greater use of operational data on board ships, for shore managers to provide real-time support to crew including telemedicine, and using an IP connection to contact system experts for machinery diagnostics and service.
Given growing data needs, VSAT is expected to replace L-band in many shipping sectors as the primary connectivity pipe due to the surge in demand for digitalisation.
The impression I'm left with is: many shipowners will be spending money on VSAT sooner than they think.