Both vendors and customers in the maritime industry agree that Internet on the ships will be just as common as in an office on shore. The new generation of “Internet savvy” seafarers expect connectivity wherever they are in order to stay in touch with their family and friends. It is getting more and more common for seafarers to bring their laptops onboard the vessels.
The vessel environment is different compared to an office. The use of internet for leisure purposes is higher than that normally seen in an office environment. This fact, coupled with several simultaneous users on a 128 or 256Kb line, creates a need to optimize line banwidth and have a streamlined and secure internet environment.
The big question among various maritime companies seems to be: When exactly do WE implement internet access for our vessels ?
Let’s look at some numbers:
For the period 2005 - 2009, vessel VSAT installations increased by 400 %.
In 2009 there was a total of 8254 vessels that had installed stabilized antennas, including Oil & Gas, fishing and cruise ships (1)
Despite a drop in global maritime activity due to declining economic conditions, there is good reason to believe that VSAT growth was strong in 2010 too.
Inmarsat installed a total of 211.000 terminals in 2009 ( 1) but there is no secret that Inmarsat have been losing market share to the VSAT providers. The Inmarsat response to this challenge are the new satellites, Inmarsat- 5, called Global Xpress: New satellites based upon Ka-band technology with small antennas and high bandwidth capacity. The Globale Xpress service is expected to be operational in 2014.
The question is now: Will Inmarsat meet the 2014 promised schedule? After all, FBB global coverage was delayed by 1,5 years.
What can companies offer their crew in the meantime while their decision to deploy internet access on their vessels is put off for some years?
For example, on a Fleet Broadband vessel with a secure firewall and a WiFi Access point, crew can sit in their cabins with their laptops and have access to private free email, private free SMS/ in –out World Wide, world news and optimized thin chat client (supporting Yahoo, MSN, Facebook and AOL ) and chat in real-time with friends on shore. Not bad, considering they do not have “real” Internet access. We even see that Inmarsat have negotiated some special airtime deals with some customers that enable them to also use optimized browsing on a Fleet Broadband line.
But, fast internet is the future. Many consider that the time is now, some consider that this will happen in a couple of years.
(1)Sourse: the COMSYS Maritime VSAT report, 2nd edition