While maritime satellite internet and digitalisation certainly cost money, when you use it to generate operational and business efficiencies, it is certainly not a cost. Broadband at sea is in fact one of the few investments you can make with a guaranteed return, just as long as you choose the right industry partners, able to help you maximise your benefit from always available IP connectivity and digital solutions.
Delivering internet at sea for maritime digitalisation, crew and passenger welfare and safety is a collaboration between satellite network operators, service providers and technology manufacturers. Maritime service providers buy capacity from satellite network operators and package it for their customers use.
The breadth of packages available is massive, with the cost ranging from a few hundred dollars a month to tens of thousands per vessel. It’s based on how much throughput and data you need and where your vessels are operating and the complexity of your requirements. A traditional merchant ship may only need a few gigabytes of data per month for email and crew use, a more modern digitalised vessel will consume a lot more, perhaps up to 50 gigabytes a month, while a large cruise ship will likely have an unlimited allowance.
On board Hardware
The expense of your on board network is driven by its complexity, which in turn comes from your requirements of satcom. You could potentially get the best connectivity from a single 1 metre Ku-band antenna, or you may need a dual antenna solution to avoid satellite blocking, or a tri-band solution to access more satellites wherever you are in the world.
Your antennas and other on board equipment can be purchased as a capital investment directly, which gives you more flexibility to change service providers. Or to reduce upfront costs, many service providers offer hardware leasing as part of the monthly fee although this tends to create a ‘lock-in’ effect. Regardless of the route you choose, the quality and reliability of your antennas and related equipment has a direct effect on your ability to maximise benefit from satellite internet.
Delivery and Installation
In an ideal world from an end customer perspective, a VSAT solution arrives on time when the vessel is in port for loading/unloading, is installed quickly and has little to no impact on turnaround time. But VSAT isn’t always like this and actually getting the equipment on board is a tangible element of the overall cost. Although this is changing.
Technology developments, such as a single cable solution and the highly automated approach to onboard system calibration and commissioning with the SAILOR VSAT range have had a significant impact on overall installation time and cost. Cobham SATCOM has also streamlined the process of delivery and execution, simplifying and reducing cost and time commitment from the moment of ordering to getting online.
The cost benefits extend throughout Cobham SATCOM products’ entire lifecycle. Losing your connection at sea can be costly. With no internet available, your data-stream will be cut-off, reducing your organisations ability to generate efficiencies. The cost of flying an engineer out to your next port to fix the problem is not insignificant and should your satcom be enabling any regulatory activity, you may not even be able to leave before you are back online.
With the acceleration of maritime digitalisation, reliability of on board communications equipment is more important than ever. Ensuring IP connectivity keeps your digital infrastructure online, while reducing service and maintenance costs. Low lifecycle costs are in fact the most important financial aspect to consider. You could save on Capex with cheaper solutions, but it won’t be long before they cost you more time and money.
Digitalisation and smart shipping
With the satcom element in place, to enjoy the benefits of smart shipping and digitalisation fully, there are several layers of IT costs to consider. Firstly, your ships have to be able to collect data, meaning sensors and monitoring systems must be procured, installed and integrated. Data has to be stored and analysed, potentially in real-time, so licensing of one or several secure, cloud-based digital platforms must be considered.
Then there is the expertise you need in-house. Granted, partnering with third-party software and technology specialists reduces this requirement, but a core team of vessel and fleet management specialists, and a dedicated data integration centre in-house is essential to squeeze every last drop of value from your data. If it all sounds expensive, that’s because it is. However, when approached with an efficient Capex, Opex and change strategy, the cost of digitalisation pales in comparison to the potential long-term value it can bring to your business.