Inmarsat has passed a significant milestone for its Ka-band based VSAT services, with more than 10,000 ships using this connectivity
With rising demand for faster communications on ships, owners and managers have opted to invest in higher bandwidth through VSAT satellite communications.
Many have selected Inmarsat’s Fleet Xpress, with the combination of Ka-band connectivity over Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) satellite constellation and L-band Fleetbroadband as a backup.
Inmarsat said on 21 January 2021, it passed the landmark of more than 10,000 Fleet Xpress installations and launched its Fleet Data Academy.
Shipping companies including MOL, K-Line and Hapag-Lloyd, and offshore support vessel owners such as Bourbon, Tidewater and Maersk Supply have installed Fleet Xpress across their fleets, mostly through Inmarsat’s partner resellers and value-adding providers, who offer services on top of the connectivity.
Owners and operators use satellite communications to provide crew welfare services to seafarers, with thousands unable to return home due to Covid-related travel restrictions. Operators also use Fleet Xpress for operational communications, information transfer and video conferencing.
“The Fleet Xpress service with unlimited back-up continues to provide shipping’s gold standard for seamless, mobile broadband,” said Inmarsat Maritime president Ronald Spithout.
Strong growth in bandwidth demand has seen Inmarsat report average daily download rates per vessel of around 8 GB in December 2020, compared with less than 4 GB mid-2020.
This rise was in parallel with Inmarsat rolling out services such as Fleet Data for internet of things (IoT) applications and expanding its Certified Application Provider (CAP) programme, which now includes 35 companies.
“We are now entering a Fleet Xpress 2.0 era as it moves way beyond a connectivity pipe and becomes a digital platform with our Fleet Data service now integrated as part of Fleet Xpress,” said Mr Spithout.
“This makes access to an ecosystem of applications and value-added services available on demand,” he said. “2020 was the tipping point for maritime digitalisation.”
Reaching a milestone of 10,000 vessels worldwide involves an ecosystem of channel partners, technology providers, installation engineers and hardware manufacturers.
It all depends on the GX constellation Inmarsat is expanding through satellite launches and commissioning.
Inmarsat’s most powerful satellite to date entered service in January 2021. GX5 augments Fleet Xpress coverage in Europe and the Middle East, joining the existing constellation of (GX1-GX4).
Up to seven more satellites will be launched in the next four years to increase GX capacity further. Both GX and L-band services will be enhanced with the delivery of two Inmarsat-6 constellation satellites, GX6A and GX6B over the next two years.
These will be followed in 2022 by GX payloads on two satellites operated by Space Norway Heosat. GX10A and 10B will be placed into highly elliptical orbits ensuring continuous coverage above 65° North, followed by Inmarsat’s planned GX7, GX8 and GX9 satellites.
Inmarsat introduced Fleet Data Academy in January 2021 to enable shipping companies and partners to “realise the full benefits of digitalisation” said Mr Spithout.
“Covid-19 has brought a major spike in data demand for crew connectivity and our Fleet Hotspot wifi solution has gained exceptional traction, but the arrival of Fleet Data as maritime’s first secure and scalable IoT platform has also been pivotal,” said Mr Spithout. “Using cloud-based data storage and interfacing easily with software has moved Fleet Xpress to a ‘2.0’ solution,” he continued.
“This also delivers fully on the promise of smart shipping, fully scalable for vessel operators, making maritime accessible for start-up application providers just as it is for established corporates.”
Its academy will provide knowledge and information to Fleet Xpress end-users and access to CAP solutions for IoT, better crew welfare services and vessel optimisation.
Maritime digitalisation, vessel optimisation and satellite connectivity will be presented and debated during Riviera’s series of Webinar Weeks and virtual conferences in 2021 - use this link to view details and register on the events page