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Broadband mobile satellite systems drive global productivity

James Parm Issue: Global-ICT 2011
Article no.: 11
Topic: Broadband mobile satellite systems drive global productivity
Author: James Parm
Title: CEO
Organisation: Stratos Global Corporation
PDF size: 328KB

About author

James J. Parm has served as President and CEO of Stratos Global since 2003. Prior to his position as CEO, Mr. Parm served for three years as Stratos’ Chief Operating Officer.

Mr. Parm earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from Michigan Technological University and an MBA from Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business.


Article abstract

The past six years have witnessed a revolution in how broadband mobile satellite systems (MSS) have positively impacted the world’s largest enterprises and government agencies. MSS is now considered a viable and reliable platform for cloud computing. As the pace of adoption for cloud computing increases across in all markets and geographic regions, the remote availability, dependability, redundancy and security of MSS solutions are regarded as major advantages.


Full Article

In the maritime industry, the rate of usage of MSS (Mobile Satellite Systems) services – in sheer number of voice minutes, emails and data transmitted – has grown at a tremendous rate. Tens of thousands of MSS terminals have been deployed by well-known organizations such as the Royal Netherlands Navy, Spain’s Albacora Group, Hong Kong’s Wallem Shipmanagement and Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine Corp.

The main drivers for the increased traffic in the past several years are: the adoption of crew calling; email for business and private use; and the adoption of ship-management applications.

Despite the enormous growth in traffic, average MSS communications costs have not increased. This is due to improvements in efficiency and quality of MSS services. We have witnessed ship managers migrate in droves to L-Band MSS services, such as Inmarsat FleetBroadband, in their quest to reduce communications costs. These systems provide high-speed data and voice communications – available simultaneously – at speeds up to 432 kbps.

Every advantage of onboard, broadband MSS communications relates to the bottom line. In the area of crew communications, the ability to offer the latest broadband services helps recruit and retain well-trained seafarers. This ensures a satisfied, productive workforce. It also reduces training costs associated with crew churn.

Broadband MSS is also helping reduce costs in every other imaginable area. The services enable higher availability of the vessel. With broadband-assisted remote support and faster problem solving, there are fewer outages. This results in lower maintenance costs and higher revenues, as the vessel is more consistently available for business.

A reliable, efficient broadband MSS platform enhances the performance of ship-management applications to support planned maintenance, purchase, safety and other onboard business processes.

In recent years, broadband MSS has begun enabling remote management, which allows headquarters personnel to manage the ship’s computers without visiting the vessel. Technical support by experts onshore help the crew and managers achieve optimal operational performance, such as lower fuel costs – while eliminating travel expenses and wasted travel time for specialists.

Insert Image 1 “Crew calling”

No overview of the remote-communications market would be complete without acknowledging a recent development that has generated a high level of interest in all markets. That is the late-2010 announcement by Inmarsat to launch Global Xpress. Based on the new Inmarsat-5, Ka-band constellation, Global Xpress is a next-generation global VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) service that is expected to have an enormous impact on maritime, land mobile and aeronautical markets in both the private and public sectors. With global commercial availability expected in 2014, the new broadband service is designed to deliver seamless global coverage and unprecedented speeds up to 50 Mbps, to customer terminals from 20-60cm in size – at price points that are lower than current Ku-band VSAT offerings.

Since that announcement, MSS distributors have been busily developing new programs for maritime companies that bridge the gap between today’s high-performance broadband MSS solutions and the expanded capabilities of Global Xpress.

The result has been the introduction of managed-service offerings that feature predictable cost and high data allowance. These new solutions are ideally suited for global maritime companies that are customizing their own network environment and require greater throughputs and bandwidth, without capital investment. In March 2011, Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd became the first maritime operator to begin deploying this type of managed service. Deployment on 40 vessels is expected to be completed by next year.

In the maritime market, we expect cloud computing to make significant inroads by fulfilling the need for lower-cost applications maintenance and data distribution. Today, it is a struggle for maritime IT managers to maintain ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) applications in remote locations. As cloud providers such as SAP develop their strategies to serve maritime operators, they must evaluate the reliability and security of various distribution platforms. With tens of thousands of successful deployments in the maritime industry alone, broadband MSS has earned its reputation for high reliability, redundancy and trusted security. Therefore, we expect it will become a prevalent platform for cloud computing.

Powering critical communications on land

Adoption of land-based, broadband MSS systems has surged to more than 50,000 activations across multiple vertical markets. Inmarsat’s BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) is perhaps the best known of these land-mobile services. In nearly 200 countries, prominent media organizations, military agencies and other remote professionals have come to rely on these services for reliable, high-speed communications in areas where terrestrial or cellular networks are damaged, congested, non-existent or too difficult to deploy.

Insert Image 2 “BGAN”

Nowhere is the need for reliable remote connectivity and security more pressing than in the broadcasting market. The world’s largest media organizations – including the BBC, CNN and Fox News – were the earliest adopters of broadband MSS solutions. Today, they continue to use the services for live broadcast and store-and-forward video clips from remote locations, or areas where communications infrastructure has been badly damaged. Today’s systems include a guaranteed minimum symmetrical video streaming rate of 384 kbps, with up to 450 kbps expected under optimal conditions.

Those leading broadcasters have deployed their broadband MSS systems to cover natural disasters and political uprisings in Haiti, Chile, Egypt, Japan and dozens of other locations worldwide.

Selected media organizations have demonstrated their willingness to outsource an increasing amount of control over their broadcasting services to application service providers. This trend toward end-to-end management means that leading MSS service providers are no longer simply providing airtime and value-added services for circuit and packet-switched video traffic. Rather, the service provider has the opportunity to own and host the application hardware and software. Media end users are now able to record news video and deliver it to their studio in a format that is ready for broadcast.

Value-added services help manage costs

To achieve broad penetration of MSS across multiple markets, innovative service providers have expended a great deal of effort to address a variety of customer requirements. This includes bundling equipment and airtime with no capital investment, and offering starter plans with low usage allowances.

Prospective customers also need the assurance that MSS costs can be easily managed and that secure communications is guaranteed. To meet those objectives, customers carefully evaluate the value-added services available from top distributors – which offer tools to monitor airtime, restrict unauthorized usage and manage costs.

Remote connectivity for energy and mining professionals

The mining and upstream energy markets have similar applications requirements. In both markets, personnel in the field require fast, dependable communications with operation centers in order to meet operating requirements and maximize efficiencies.

Today’s broadband MSS solutions are ideally suited to meet this remote-communications requirement, as they provide users with quick access to email, corporate networks, Internet or voice. The compact design of today’s MSS terminals – the size of a laptop computer – makes them a valuable resource for system operators who need a highly mobile communications solution for times when they must visit their remote sites.

In the offshore energy market, forward-thinking CIOs seek to extend their corporate WAN (Wide Area Network) to every remote site – via MSS in many cases. Extending the WAN enables the enforcement of corporate-IT and acceptable-use policies at the remote site. Enforcement of those policies helps prevent infection of the end user’s PC from unacceptable entities such as file-sharing programs, social networking sites and adult content.

Furthermore, extending the corporate WAN protects drilling data and other intellectual property – by preventing that data from being sent over the public Internet.

The use of MSS as a platform for cloud computing in the mining and upstream energy markets is likely to expand, as it becomes more critical to quickly access the latest remote-office applications and ensure the interoperability between databases.

One example of how cloud computing has impacted the offshore energy market is in the area of video conferencing. The cloud enables users to tie into existing video conferencing systems and send encrypted video streams from underwater cameras back to shore – where they can be evaluated by experts.

Enabling military command and control

The advent of ruggedized terminals has helped spur MSS adoption by many of the world’s largest military agencies, including those in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and Japan. Broadband MSS systems keep field commanders connected at all times, enabling them to access command-and-control systems and maximize the effectiveness of their forces.

MSS systems also provide broadcast-quality transmissions for email, file transfer, Internet access and video teleconferencing. These capabilities enable battlefield commanders to maintain true, mobile-office connectivity wherever they travel. This helps maximize the utility of key officials by enabling extended travel and mobility without decreasing their day-to-day effectiveness or readiness status.

In the United States, the Department of Defense has challenged industry to provide creative solutions for supporting cloud applications. With the increased reliance on commercial satellite communications and the advent of new, flexible pricing, MSS is considered a practical platform for cloud computing in the military. In the future, we expect MSS to continue to play a vital role in helping commanders maintain applications in remote locations. As cloud computing becomes more prevalent in the military architecture, the proven dependability and portability of MSS will be seen as a major enabler.


Among both government and enterprise CIOs, there is a growing demand for fully integrated MSS solutions that provide dependable communications for remote sites where terrestrial or cellular infrastructure is unavailable, unreliable or cost prohibitive.

More than ever before, cloud-savvy CIOs are viewing the flexible MSS platform as an invaluable service-delivery mechanism.

In response to these trends, progressive service providers are offering turnkey, broadband MSS systems that include airtime, applications, hardware, installation, network engineering and management, customer support and value-added services.

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