|Issue:||Asia-Pacific II 2014|
|Topic:||Mobility makes that ‘anywhere’ connection|
|Title:||CTO & SVP of Engineering|
David Bettinger, CTO and SVP of Engineering – iDirect
Mr. Bettinger joined iDirect as the Director of Hardware Engineering in 1996 and took over responsibility of all hardware and software development as VP of Engineering in 2002. In 2005 he became Chief Technology Officer and is now responsible for the oversight of all technology decisions within iDirect and serves to drive the strategic direction for product development, technology alliances, and mergers and acquisitions. Mr. Bettinger currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Global VSAT Forum and is an active member of the Telecommunications Industry Association, IEEE and the IPv6 Forum. Previous to iDirect, Mr. Bettinger was a senior member of the technical staff at Hughes Network Systems in the Satellite Networks Division.
David Bettinger is a graduate of Virginia Tech with a Masters of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and has been awarded six patents in the area of satellite communications.
Today, whether by land, sea or air; high-speed, reliable connectivity knows no bounds. Driven by people’s insatiable desire to be connected at all times, airlines, rail and cruise operators and many more are rapidly moving to establish broadband connectivity in order to help generate revenue—and perhaps even build customer loyalty in the process.
However, the idea of simply being connected will no longer suffice. That same experience we have with placing a call, accessing data or streaming a video at home or in the office is also expected every time we step on board a plane, train or automobile. We won’t tolerate any interruptions and simply don’t have time to deal with those that cannot offer us a high-quality experience.
Like many executives, I spend countless hours flying around the globe. It wasn’t all that long ago that such time would be considered ‘offline’, disconnected from communication, entertainment and overall engagement with the world around me.
But today that story is vastly different.
By land, by sea and by air: high-speed, reliable connectivity knows no bounds these days. Driven by people’s insatiable desire to be connected at all times, airlines, rail and cruise operators and many more are rapidly moving to establish broadband connectivity in order to help generate revenue—and perhaps even build customer loyalty in the process.
The idea of simply being connected will no longer suffice. That same experience we have with placing a call, accessing data or streaming a video at home or in the office is also expected every time we step on board a plane, train or automobile. We won’t tolerate any interruptions and simply don’t have time to deal with those that cannot offer us a high-quality experience.
In all, it places enormous pressure on the technology that helps facilitate this process. There are those of us who see this heightened expectation as an opportunity and are building towards that next phase of mobility. We are simply confident in the fact we need to ensure that this “anywhere” connection is as seamless and high quality as possible.
Market trends in mobility have been on a steady course of development for years, led by some trend-setting markets. In maritime, for instance, vessel operators are actively addressing ship-to-shore communications and crew welfare with the help of VSAT broadband. Speaking specifically to the latter, ships that can offer crew members the option of staying connected while out at sea for weeks at a time recruit and retain the best talent.
But we have just begun our course in maritime. Satellite market analysts COMSYS forecasts that the number of vessels relying on VSAT as their primary means of communications, will more than double by 2016 expanding to more than 26,000 vessels. In addition, the analyst form has VSAT market revenues on target to exceed US$1.2 billion by 2016, having already surged by a 40% or more annual growth rate over the past five years.
This should have a direct effect on the Asia-Pacific market due to the fact many of the world’s seafarers on commercial shipping vessels come from this region. For instance, according to the 2010 Labor Statistics, the Philippines accounted for 25% of the 1.5 million seafarers, so VSAT will allow them to stay connected to their lives back home.
As commercial shipping continues to rebound from the economically challenging times over the past few years we see VSAT continuing to play an increasingly prominent role aboard these vessels. Five of the top ten shipping companies in the world, representing nearly 20% of the twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) are based out of the Asia region. We see continued adoption of connectivity solutions improving many operational aspects of their business as they transport goods around the globe.
Such opportunity is facilitated by a decrease in costs, high quality service and easy to use systems. This will ultimately open untapped market segments and encourage greater adoption among current users.
One such example is Harris CapRock. Its customers operate rigs that sail thousands of miles across the ocean between disparate remote locations. The ability to provide higher availability, better bandwidth utilization and a consistent user experience steadily increases as more bandwidth-hungry applications are being pushed offshore onto these vessels. Rig operators also need to share bandwidth across multiple applications that have differing priorities. And the more applications that get pushed out onto these vessels means more risk of lost revenue should any downtime occur.
The story is similar for cruise ship operators. Like commercial operators, they are tasked with striking that delicate balance between operational and recreational connectivity. Certainly the crew needs to be connected in order to communicate ship-to-shore, but now add in thousands of passengers that want to perform bandwidth-intensive tasks online, most of whom expect to do so using multiple devices.
Test cases are already showing successful results on this front. One of the largest cruise-ship operators in the world, Carnival Corporation upgraded its communications services on board more than 100 of its ships spanning ten cruise line brands. The fully managed, end-to-end VSAT solution delivers a seamless mobility experience for both passengers and crew. Many of its travelers want access to bandwidth-heavy applications like video and are using multiple devices to access the Internet—all of which can be accommodated through the use of VSAT.
It demonstrates the desire on the part of vessel operators—both commercial and cruise—for wanting to provide this value-added service to those on board.
Perhaps no other market better exemplifies the potential of mobility than commercial airline. With thousands of people taking flight on a daily basis, the muscle of mobility is put on display more often to more people. The flipside of that dynamic is the fact that any limitations people experience with using the technology during a flight can go viral, so to speak, as they tell all their friends and family about their bad encounter with in-flight connectivity.
According to a recent report from Boeing, over the next 20 years the number of airline passengers is projected to grow 4.1% annually with airline traffic expanding 5% during that span. Air travel growth within the Asia-Pacific region alone looks to outpace that worldwide total, projected to increase 6.2% annually.
In total, Boeing is projecting that airlines will need more than 35,000 new planes, valued at around US$4.8 trillion. 37 percent of those planes are forecasted to be in the Asia-Pacific region, calling for roughly 12,820 planes to be added, valued at more than US$1.8 trillion.
Up to the challenge, major airlines are equipping their fleets with broadband systems and rolling out in-flight service offerings at a rapid rate. Satellite is also being positioned for use for onboard operations, used by pilot and crew to maintain communication with ground control and to monitor critical flight information. According to Northern Sky Research, in-flight connectivity will grow the use of satellite services to 80,000 in-service units and will drive US$3.4 billion in revenues in the next ten years.
Let’s look specifically at the growth for in-flight entertainment (IFE). This includes delivering high-speed Internet connectivity to passengers, along with such applications as live video programming, interactive premium entertainment and voice applications. IFE presents a real opportunity for airlines to increase both revenue and customer loyalty.
Using Lufthansa as one example, the airline has been making a steady investment in mobility throughout the years. The latest comes with being the first customer for retrofitting in-service A380s with Global Communications Services from
Panasonic Avionics Corporation. This will provide passengers with online services, as well as allow them to watch live, global television content with Panasonic’s eXTV service, and even use GPRS services of their mobile phones, among other tasks.
Under a joint agreement with Lufthansa Technik, all in-service A380s are to be equipped and certified with Panasonic’s broadband connectivity and mobile phone services. This is significant in that it is the first time that Airbus has allowed such communications hardware to be retrofitted onto this airframe type.
Overall, it comes back to being able to effectively deliver a consistent user experience, built around strong and reliable capabilities of a network that can go anywhere, anytime without question or compromise. It is the very reason why military organizations around the globe and first responders like law enforcement and fire and safety, among others, have never thought twice about making satellite the central piece to their communications infrastructure. In a way, these high-profile markets set the bar for the mobility experience.
But now it’s time to take that experience even further. We must continually push the envelope when it comes to both user experience and quality.
After all, we have merely scratched the surface when it comes to the conversation around mobility. We live in an increasingly mobile world, where at any moment tomorrow becomes vastly different from today. If we are to truly deliver that ‘anywhere’ connection, the user experience needs to increasingly exceed expectations.