Analyzing SoftBank's Intelsat - OneWeb Investment
"Coming: Masayoshi Son's IoT Highway in the Sky"
An Interview With Cruise Industry Veteran Brent Horwitz
"VSAT for Cruise: A Boom Greater than Imagined"
An Interview with Kevin Steen, iDirect's new CEO
"iDirect and the Satellite Industry's Future"
Volume II,No 4 April 2017
In this Issue:...
Independent Analysis and Commentary on Maritime, Aero and Land-based Satellite Technologies
Satellite mobility World
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Welcome to the April 2017 issue of Gottlieb's Satellite Mobility World. Our magazine is now over one year old and in just 15 issues, we're now read in 39 countries!
We following an industry that is rapidly evolving. Satellite Operators are racing to build new HTS and LEO constellations. Hub and Modem manufacturers are introducing new ultra high speed infrastructure, and flat panel antennas will soon be coming to market.
At Satellite Mobility World, we're following these new technologies and the strategies that are reshaping the industry. We're also the first publication to reach the industry's decision makers with a combination of media resources - ads, e-mail blasts, social media and editorial content combined - over 10,000 reach at a fraction of the cost of traditional media.
Gottlieb's Satellite and Mobility World is published monthly (except August) by Gottlieb International Group., Inc. Suite 100, 1209 South Frederick Street, Arlington, VA USA 22204
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SATELLITE MOBILITY WORLD
In this Issue:
Industry Trends and Analysis (pg. 3)
Op-Ed: Analyzing SoftBank's Intelsat - OneWeb Investment: Coming Masayoshi Son's IoT Highway in the Sky (pg. 4)
At Seatrade Cruise Global - Global Eagle's Landmark Event: A New Vision of VSAT For Cruise (pg. 10)
VSAT for Cruise: A Boom Greater than Imagined - An Interview with Brent Horwitz, Cruise Industry Veteran
iDirect and the Satellite Industry's Future: An Interview With Kevin Steen, iDirect's New CEO, (Pg. 21)
Industry Trends and Analysis
SmartSky Networks Secures $170 Million Series B Financing
Completes funding for nationwide deployment of the patented SmartSky 4G LTE air-to-ground network later this year
Editor's Note: SmartSky is a pioneer in the use of unlicensed spectrum for Air to Ground (ATG) business jet connectivity, and has a series of patents that they believe gives them a proprietary advantage in the use of this spectrum. Gogo has also announced a similar effort in the same unlicensed band and claims that its combination of licensed and unlicensed spectrum gives it an advantage over SmartSky. This will be an interesting race as the two companies battle for a share of market.
"CHARLOTTE, N.C. – March 30, 2017 – SmartSky Networks, LLC (“SmartSky”) announces the closing of over $170 million in a multi-tranche Series B financing, completing the equity funding for the deployment of its nationwide network. With this financing, the Company has raised approximately a quarter of a billion dollars in equity capital. Goldman, Sachs & Co. acted as exclusive placement agent on the transaction.
SmartSky is deploying the nation’s first 4G LTE-based broadband high speed wireless air-to-ground data network dedicated to providing airborne Internet connectivity. At aviation industry conferences and in private meetings, SmartSky has conducted inflight demonstrations allowing partners and flight departments to experience a level of connectivity fully comparable to the Internet experience in their office or home – a first for the industry. The nationwide network rollout is underway, with the vast majority of sites expected to be operational this fall.
“We are pleased to have accomplished the threshold technical and business milestones needed to close on this major capital formation step,” said Chairman and CEO Haynes Griffin. “As a result, we are moving rapidly with the deployment of our coast-to-coast national network to bring users fast, seamless connectivity in the air.”
Griffin added, “A significant number of customers joined our Early Bird waiting list to secure their spot at the head of the line. SmartSky and its partners have already begun the process of obtaining a Supplemental Type Certification (STC) needed for installation on each aircraft model type. We expect Early Bird customer installs of our patented technology to commence next quarter, immediately following completion of the first few STCs.”
A veteran of the telecommunications industry and past president of the Cellular Telephone Industry Association, Griffin, who has built cellular networks in locations across the United States, commented “Cellular has built out everywhere. Now it’s time to build up.”
Intelsat and Kymeta Complete Major Milestones; Intelsat Acquires Equity Stake in Kymeta
Editors Note: According to our sources, Kymeta does have a real product that is market ready. However, very reliable sources indicate that performance of the antenna is still 2dB under one customer's specification on both send and receive modes. Furthermore, to address the cargo vessel market, other sources indicate that the antenna needs to be mounted on a stand and tilted to face the satellite. This mounting requirement, combined with an estimated $35,000 + cost for a 70 cm panel and its limited efficiency vs. a standard 1.0 Meter steerable antenna (at around $25,000) render it impractical for the cargo vessel market. However, should the smaller, 20 cm version of the antenna attain projected cost levels of under $100, the connected car and IoT market for it could be very large. Until Kymeta can "Daisy Chain" antennas together on the transmit as well as the receive mode, we believe the antenna will be challenged in applications requiring high bandwidth on the up-link.
Stephen Spengler, Intelsat’s Chief Executive Officer to Join Kymeta’s Board of Directors
"Luxembourg, Seattle, WA and Washington, D.C., 07 March, 2017: After achieving critical development milestones for the mTennaTM antennas combined with the introduction of KĀLOTM services, Intelsat, (NYSE: I) operator of the world’s first Globalized Network, announced today that it has acquired an equity stake in Kymeta. Additionally, it was announced that Stephen Spengler, Intelsat’s Chief Executive Officer, has joined Kymeta’s board of directors.
Stephen Spengler, Intelsat’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Intelsat is developing and supporting the innovative new technologies that will unlock new applications for our sector. The demand for fast, reliable broadband connectivity requires innovation in-orbit and across the entire satellite ecosystem to unlock new growth opportunities. Our partnership with Kymeta provides a real game changer and a high performance, cost-effective alternative for the industry. As noted by our increased equity stake, we value our partnership with Kymeta and look forward to capturing exciting opportunities in fast growing new vertical markets together.”
“We are excited to have Intelsat as an investor in Kymeta,” said Dr. Nathan Kundtz, Founder, President and CEO, Kymeta. “This investment further solidifies the KĀLO bundled services offering by providing a global high-throughput network for our easy to purchase services packages. In tandem with our commercial product release of Kymeta mTennau7 and KyWayTM terminals, the relationship with Intelsat is core to our strategy for growth. The investment aligns with our mutual interest in simplifying satellite access.”
Intelsat S.A. (NYSE: I) operates the world’s first Globalized Network, delivering high-quality, cost-effective video and broadband services anywhere in the world. Intelsat’s Globalized Network combines the world’s largest satellite backbone with terrestrial infrastructure, managed services and an open, interoperable architecture to enable customers to drive revenue and reach through a new generation of network services. Thousands of organizations serving billions of people worldwide rely on Intelsat to provide ubiquitous broadband connectivity, multi-format video broadcasting, secure satellite communications and seamless mobility services. The end result is an entirely new world, one that allows us to envision the impossible, connect without boundaries and transform the ways in which we live. For more information, visit www.intelsat.com.
About Kymeta Corporation
Kymeta delivers on what connectivity is meant to be – secure, available, and global. Kymeta is removing barriers by providing an innovative means of leveraging satellite network capacity for high bandwidth communication access while on the move. The company’s first products, software-enabled metamaterials-based electronic beamforming antennas and terminals for satellite communications, will keep boats, planes, cars, and more connected.
In 2017 Kymeta has been recognized with a 2017 Fast Company World’s Most Innovative Companies in Space award and the 2017 Puget Sound Business Journal Innovation Award for Technology. The company has also been awarded the 2016 Seattle Business Silver Tech Impact Award for Emerging Technology and the 2016 2b AHEAD Innovators Award, which were closely preceded by the Frost & Sullivan 2016 New Product Innovation Award. The company has also been recognized as a CNBC Disruptor for two consecutive years, a FiReStarter by Strategic News Network and a top 50 MIT Technology Review Disruptive Company. Kymeta has formed significant partnerships with industry leaders including Toyota, Intelsat, Panasonic, Airbus Defence & Space, Sharp, Intellian, O3b, and more. If it moves, Kymeta will keep it connected. Anywhere. The company is based in Redmond, Washington and operates on a worldwide basis. For more information, please visit www.kymetacorp.com.
Intelsat Safe Harbor Statement
Statements in this news release from time to time by representatives of the company constitute “forward-looking statements” that do not directly or exclusively relate to historical facts. When used in this earnings release, the words “may,” “will,” “might,” “should,” “expect,” “plan,” “anticipate,” “project,” “believe,” “estimate,” “predict,” “intend,” “potential,” “outlook,” and “continue,” and the negative of these terms, and other similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements and information.
The forward-looking statements reflect Intelsat’s intentions, plans, expectations, anticipations, projections, estimations, predictions, outlook, assumptions and beliefs about future events and are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors, many of which are outside of Intelsat’s control. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from the expectations expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements include known and unknown risks. Known risks include, among others, the risks described in Intelsat’s annual report on Form 20-F for the year ended December 31, 2016, and its other filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the political, economic and legal conditions in the markets we are targeting for communications services or in which we operate and other risks and uncertainties inherent in the telecommunications business in general and the satellite communications business in particular.
Because actual results could differ materially from Intelsat’s intentions, plans, expectations, anticipations, projections, estimations, predictions, outlook, assumptions and beliefs about the future, you are urged to view all forward-looking statements with caution. Intelsat does not undertake any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise."
Marlink and Intelsat Meeting the Growing Connectivity Demands of the Maritime Passenger Sector via Intelsat EpicNG
"Luxembourg and Paris, 13 March 2017 – Intelsat S.A. (NYSE: I), operator of the world’s first Globalized Network, powered by its leading satellite backbone, and Marlink announced today that their partnership to deliver high throughput satellite (HTS) services to cruise and passenger vessels using Intelsat EpicNG has contributed to an increase in bandwidth delivered on Marlink’s Sealink VSAT service of more than 220 percent during 2016.
This growth in bandwidth enabling broadband connectivity for Marlink cruise and passenger segment customers is more than three times larger than what Marlink was delivering at the beginning of 2016. This has been driven by the global services capability that Marlink offers on its Sealink VSAT service portfolio, enabled using the Intelsat Globalized Network, including the Intelsat EpicNG platform and strategically located teleports around the world.
The ability to deliver a consistent, high-quality broadband experience on Sealink VSAT to vessels, regardless of location, is becoming increasingly important, as the cruise industry is attracting more passengers than ever and taking them to new destinations around the globe. Supporting this growth and changes in traffic patterns, especially a shift to users uploading photos and video content, could only have been supported with a global network of satellites that includes HTS, wide beams, teleports and support teams, creating a true differentiator.
Marlink is a long-standing Intelsat customer, with services on multiple Intelsat satellites and the IntelsatOne terrestrial network. The Intelsat-Marlink strategic agreement for services on the Intelsat EpicNG platform began in 2014. Marlink is already providing services via Intelsat 29e and Intelsat 33e, which combined, cover the Americas, Caribbean, and the heavily traveled North Atlantic route, Europe, Africa and Asia. Marlink will add coverage via Intelsat 35e when it begins operations later in 2017, and will complete global coverage when Horizons 3e is launched in the second half of 2018. The efficiency of the Intelsat EpicNG service allows Marlink to push more throughput per unit of capacity, improving economics for its customers. The open-architecture design and backwards compatibility of Intelsat EpicNG enables Marlink to seamlessly incorporate high-throughput services into its network, meaning maritime customers do not have to take vessels out of operation to perform expensive equipment upgrades.
“The surge in demand for data connectivity across the maritime sector helped drive the creation of the partnership, and it continues to pay immediate, measurable dividends for Marlink and Sealink VSAT customers,” said Tore Morten Olsen, President Maritime, Marlink. “Working with Intelsat, we have been able to ensure that the Sealink service, in addition to our segment expertise, meets the rapidly growing and evolving demands of cruise and passenger fleet operators for flexible, global connectivity that enables guests to access the Internet and post multimedia content to social media quickly, and in a cost-effective manner.”
“Intelsat provides a global high-throughput infrastructure that delivers a consistent broadband experience,” Mark Rasmussen, Vice President and General Manager, Mobility, Intelsat, said. “Our first three Intelsat EpicNG satellites are in orbit and our momentum indicates we are delivering on the promise of HTS with improved performance, better economics and simpler access. Intelsat designed Intelsat EpicNG with our customers’ needs front and center, and Marlink’s continued growth across numerous maritime sectors confirms our approach benefits Intelsat, our customers and the maritime sector as a whole.”
Marlink will be exhibiting at 2017 Seatrade Cruise Global, the leading international exhibition and conference serving the cruise industry, which will be held in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., USA, March 13-16."
SpeedCast Provides Record Amount of Connectivity to Cruise Ships
A total of 5.5 Gbps was delivered in 2016, with strong double digit growth expected in 2017
"SYDNEY-SpeedCast International Limited (ASX: SDA), the world’s most trusted provider of highly reliable, fully managed, end-to-end remote communication and IT solutions, today announced it supplied an unprecedented amount of data and voice connectivity to cruise customers in 2016.
As the launch of new, larger ships with thousands of guests and crew continues to drive consumption, bandwidth requirements have spiked due to the increasing adoption of newer data intensive applications. Onboard events are streamed back to shore by both guests and crew as uplinked content bandwidth requirements are moving closer to their downlink counterparts. The highest consuming ships are using multiple terabytes of data per month. In addition, with the number of connected devices per person growing, the demand for bandwidth will continue to surge in 2017.
“We realize that reliable high speed connectivity increases passenger satisfaction and the more speed we can provide, the better,” said Cynthia Gillis, VP Cruise, SpeedCast. “We were the first communications company to provide 100 Mbps to a single cruise ship and now, thanks to our customers, we are providing a record amount of bandwidth.”
SpeedCast and the cruise industry:
SpeedCast specializes in the complete supply and integration of communications, entertainment, navigation and IT services for both ocean and river cruise vessels. Buoyed by hundreds of global field technicians, SpeedCast supports over half of the world’s oceanic cruise ships with a focus on guest experience and customer satisfaction."
Inmarsat Maritime secures Fleet Xpress commitment from Hapag-Lloyd
"20 March 2017: Inmarsat (LSE: ISAT.L) has signed a five-year contract with Hapag-Lloyd to migrate all ships directly managed by the shipping line to services enabled for Fleet Xpress.
Hapag-Lloyd, the sixth largest container shipping operator in the world by Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit (TEU) capacity, will transition all existing ships that it manages in-house from Inmarsat FleetBroadband services to Fleet Xpress. The agreement also covers five 10,500 TEU vessels as latest new builds.
Launched in 2016, Fleet Xpress sets a new standard in maritime communications. The service enhances vessel efficiency, crew welfare and safety, and facilitates ‘connected ship’ applications by delivering the highest levels of reliable high-speed broadband connectivity available from a single supplier on a global scale.
Hapag-Lloyd has been an Inmarsat customer for more than a decade, and the transition commitment to Fleet Xpress coincides with the expiry of a service contract based on FleetBroadband with VSAT back-up via Ku-band. The new agreement reflects the ship owner’s requirement for a fully managed migration to high-speed broadband and support it can trust from a single service provider. The agreement also stipulates redundant service provision that would be scalable for any future fleet growth. The deal includes terminals from both Inmarsat approved manufactures Intellian and Cobham SATCOM.
“IT integration of our fleet has grown rapidly and will further develop. As a consequence Hapag-Lloyd has to ensure that the ship-to-shore connectivity not only supports the increasing demand, but is also future proof,” said Jens Habler, Head of Hapag-Lloyd IT- Operations Management.
“Hapag-Lloyd is recognised as one of shipping’s most advanced owners when it comes to IT and ship-shore connectivity, and for the close attention it pays in addition to keeping its crews connected,” says Gerbrand Schalkwijk, Chief Sales Officer, Inmarsat Maritime. “We look forward to working with the owner’s team to realise the potential of the fully redundant Fleet Xpress service within the Hapag-Lloyd office, vessel and service organisation.”
Marlink acquires long-term vessel IT management partner Palantir
"Oslo/Paris, 17 March 2017: Marlink has acquired Palantir AS, a Norway-based maritime IT company specialising in remote IT management solutions. The Share Purchase Agreement whereby Marlink acquired 100% of Palantir AS shares was completed on March 17 2017.
Palantir provides IT managers on shore with easy access to individual vessels or entire fleets for remote support and management of on board IT networks. Marlink and Palantir already enjoy a close working relationship through a strategic partnership agreement started in September 2014, which has enabled Marlink to deliver integrated IT management services to its Sealink multi-band communications service customers, including Stolt Tankers and CMA CGM.
Palantir’s maritime IT solutions enable shipowners and operators to significantly improve fleet efficiency whilst reducing maintenance costs through standardisation, automation and remote management. Palantir is the company behind the sophisticated KeepUp@Sea managed IT service, which monitors all IT networks on board a vessel and across a fleet, providing significant savings by enabling IT staff on shore to detect and address issues remotely. Ship owners globally benefit from increased uptime and reduced burden on officers on board, in addition to less requirement for travel and physical interventions on IT issues, which supports cost reductions while lowering carbon footprint.
KeepUp@Sea is the ideal complement to Marlink’s Sealink multi-band communications services. It has enabled Marlink to expand its offering to shipping companies, providing fleet-wide control of IT network changes and upgrades from shore, ensuring more stability of PCs and equipment on board vessels. The system delivers more IT network uptime on board, providing high availability for diverse ‘smart shipping’ applications that are helping the industry to operate more effectively, which is especially vital in today’s challenging markets.
“Together, Marlink, Telemar and Palantir will offer an incredibly diverse service portfolio, supporting the shipping industry with state-of-the art communications, IT and electronics solutions from a single global and highly experienced organisation" said Tore Morten Olsen, President Maritime, Marlink.
“As the shipping industry is becoming increasingly more focused on data solutions further integration of IT and communications services is a must,” said Arvid Dregelid, President at Palantir AS. “Working as part of the same organisation, we bring the ability for Marlink to support the shipping industry with both the satcom and IT side, ensuring that the availability of networks on board matches the reliability of the link between ship and shore."
Coming: Masayoshi Son's IoT Highway in the Sky
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"Thus, the unique combination of Intelsat, OneWeb and Kymeta emerges as a visionary bet that the next economic revolution will be based not on the movement of people and goods via railroads and steamships as it was in Vanderbilt's Industrial Revolution, but on the business of transporting massive amounts IoT and M2M data."
SoftBank Chairman Masayoshi Son's massive investment in the Intelsat - OneWeb combination may not be, as many believe, based on Greg Wyler's altruistic vision to serve Internet to the multitudes beyond the reach of conventional connectivity - a Target Market extraordinarily difficult to quantify.
Moreover, we believe Masayoshi Son's vision is based on the belief that a massive amount of IoT and M2M data will be created in the future and that Ku-Band satellite is a lower cost means of transport than the L-Band base services in use today. Masayoshi Son almost certainly envisions Softbank as a major stakeholder in a unique data highway, and he is confident in the willingness of corporations to pay a toll to move their data across it. While there may be a market to deliver connectivity to the multitudes of Internet "unwashed" in the hinterlands, it is the corporate market that will justify his investment - selling transport to companies like Exxon.
Thus, the unique merging of Intelsat and OneWeb and Intelsat's equity investment in Kymeta emerges as a visionary bet that the next economic revolution will be based not on the movement of people and goods via railroads and steamships as it was in Vanderbilt's Industrial Revolution, but on the business of transporting massive amounts IoT and M2M data.
Just as Vanderbilt attempted to dominate the railroad infrastructure, Masayoshi Son's investment will enable the merged companies to ultimately own, control and profit from a unique and massive satellite data transport infrastructure. Tomorrow's, "railroads" are in the sky.
Technological Components: Pieces of the Puzzle:
Unlike video and voice, transmission of IoT and M2M involves the exchange of "thin line" data, a few bytes of telemetry from sensors on cars, storage tanks, refineries, electrical utilities, pipelines, etc.
To date, L-Band providers Iridium and Inmarsat have had an advantage in these IoT and M2M segments because of their very low cost antenna modules. While the L-Band network access technology is very low cost, the transmission cost is high due to the limited amount of spectrum available in the Band.
As OneWeb utilizes the Ku-Band frequency, it enjoys availability of much greater spectrum resources and can transmit data at lower cost. However, the cost of the antennas required to transmit IoT and M2M data has heretofore limited its access to these markets. Customers simply will not pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for the conventional satellite dish antennas required to service thousands of individual sites. Assuming the ongoing data transportation cost is less than with L-Band, a one time investment in Kymeta antenna solves this dilemma and makes the Intelsat OneWeb combination extremely competitive in these "thin line" data markets.
Despite its limited transmission capability on the up-link, the Kymeta antenna is well suited to the minimal bandwidth demand required to transmit IoT and M2M data. Because it can be mass produced by the same process used to make LCD flat panel TV screens, it can be manufactured very inexpensively making it suitable for such applications as Toyota's "connected car." Furthermore, the fact that the antenna can access more than one satellite simultaneously, makes it ideal for tracking and communicating with a hybrid GEO and LEO constellation, the infrastructure envisioned by Intelsat.
With the elements of a "technology puzzle" in place, the logic of the merger between the three entities becomes more clear when there is a tangible target market such as corporate entities. It is far easier to sell investors the business case for a proprietary global data transmission network to serve corporate customers than to ask them to take the risk of funding a venture with a collection of difficult to define markets such as rural schools and the unserved masses beyond the reach of traditional Internet infrastructure.
In addition, the combination of the three entities offers other unique advantages.
For Intelsat, SoftBank's proposed investment lowers Intelsat's staggering debt load and assuming successful conversion of some of it's high interest bond holders to equity, results in a net reduction of $3.7 Billion in debt.
This combination of debt reduction, a tangible business vision with a corporate target market and the added credibility brought to the table by the SoftBank investment lowers risk and vastly enhances Intelsat's attractiveness to investors, thereby improving the prospect of making successful debt to equity swaps today and in the future. For OneWeb, the advantages of the combination are equally compelling.
When combined with Intelsat, OneWeb immediately becomes part of a company with an ongoing cash flow. By combining its LEO network with the Intelsat GEO constellation, OneWeb also solves the potential for interference with GEO satellites operating in the equatorial region. Customers of the Intelsat hybrid LEO/GEO network would simply roam onto Intelsat's GEO constellation in the equatorial regions.
Of further importance, Intelsat's equity investment in Kymeta also gives OneWeb access to the low cost Kymeta antenna, an advantage that can significantly expand its market, and it gets access to a vast network of potential corporate customers. For Kymeta, the combination is also advantageous.
It also gains access to Intelsat's vast distribution channel. By combining Intelsat and OneWeb bandwidth with its antenna, it can join with Intelsat to enter service markets, selling long term subscriptions to data transport services thereby creating an attractive, recurring revenue model which, as a proprietary combination, could command high margins. Kymeta's just announced Kalo service is the embodiment of this concept.
Analyzing the Risks :
While the ultimate business prospect of the merger is attractive, success depends on overcoming several hurdles.
First of all, there is the question of whether there will be enough demand in the short term to achieve the economics required to produce a very low cost Kymeta antennas. In this regard, the Toyota "connected car" venture appears to be progressing well and if successful, should support the economics of mass production required to lower the cost of the antennas to the point where they would be cost effective for mass market IoT and M2M data transmission.
Another question is can the cost of the OneWeb constellation be kept within the budgeted targets? It remains to be seen if the satellites can be mass produced at the projected cost of $500,000 each and the gateways and network built within the projected budget guidelines. A serious cost over run combined with a slower than expected revenue ramp up could challenge the ventures viability. In terms of technology risk, we believe OneWeb can be built. The question is what the final cost will be?
In the end, the logic of the merger seems inescapable. The objective of the corporate combination seems clear and the advantages to each player well defined. Should Masayoshi Son's vision be realized, the newly minted company could generate handsome returns as it becomes a major player in what Masayoshi Son believes to be the world's IoT future. A.G.
Op-Ed: Analyzing SoftBank's Intelsat - OneWeb Investment
Global Eagle's Landmark Event - A New Vision of VSAT for Cruise
Organized and moderated by Gottlieb International Group's Managing Director, Alan Gottlieb, Global Eagle's VSAT for Cruise: What's New and What You Need to Know Now," drew a capacity crowd. Joining Global Eagle's, President of Cruise, Ferry and Yacht Services, Ole Sivertsen, were panelists Steven Conley, Sr. Product Manager for Maritime from SES Global; Comtech EF Data Sr. V.P., Steve Good; V.P. of Sales for Orbit Communications, Mike Gold and Phasor CEO, David Helfgott.
Given the incredible demand aboard cruise vessels for Internet, the attendance was not surprising. As noted in this month's interview with Cruise Industry by veteran Brent Horwitz, Internet use generates $350 Million per/year in revenue for the industry, making it the fastest growing segment after shore excursions and casinos. With per/vessel demand soaring to over 100 Mbps per/vessel and 80 vessels with an average passenger capacity of 3,000 passengers to be added to the existing 330 Industry fleet by 2026 and nearly 400 river cruise vessels in service, Cruise is a major focus for Satellite Operators and Integrators. Major trends include:
Demand for Higher Capacity Satellite Links and supportive infrastructure:
Internet usage is now being driven by the proliferation of smartphones and iPads and social media enthusiasts. The desire to upload videos and photos is rapidly shifting bandwidth demand from 70% on the down-link and 30% on the return to equal capacities in both directions.
To cope with the increased demand, Hub and Modem manufacturers are shifting to DVBS2X on the down-link and Dynamic SCPC on the up-link.
As Comtech's Steve Good noted, Hub and Modem infrastructure manufacturers need to be focused on "horsepower," the ability to efficiently transport the massive amounts of data and in other developments, Flat Panel Antennas will also becoming to the Cruise Industry.
Flat Panel Antennas:
Assuming competitive efficiencies can be reached, Cruise executives are eager to get rid of the unsightly and difficult to maintain mechanical antennas that adorn their vessels, and river cruise companies need antennas that can pass under the low bridges on European waterways. In addition, the coming of LEO constellations will stimulate acceptance as Flat Panels antennas like Phasor can access and track two satellites simultaneously - eliminating the need for dual mechanical tracking antennas.
Given the rapid changes overtaking the VSAT industry, and the rising importance of Internet services aboard ship, the Event was especially well timed and favorably received.
At Seatrade Cruise Global in Fort Lauderdale
While the Cruise industry has been recognized as a prime market for VSAT services, the projected growth of this market is likely to exceed even the most optimistic projections. For those Satellite Operators and Integrators able to understand this incredibly complex and challenging market, the revenue potential is staggering and may represent the greatest opportunity ever envisioned in mobility, surpassing even the booming aviation connectivity market.
With a current ocean going cruise fleet of 330 cruise ships and 80 vessels currently on order or under construction, the fleet is expected to increase an unprecedented 24% by 2024, and the average number of passengers per/vessel is expected to climb to 3,000. On these vessels, bandwidth requirements are already approaching 100 Mbps per/vessels and will likely further increase as the industry struggles to satisfy the insatiable demand of Internet and social media addicted cruise passengers.
The river cruise market has grown substantially, representing close to 400 vessels. Ten new vessels are currently under construction and will be added to the existing Fleet by 2019.
With typical capacities of around 200 guests, each of these vessels could be expected to require at least 20 - 30 Mbps of bandwidth capacity. To understand what is driving the incredible growth in bandwidth demand in Cruise markets, and what Satellite Operators and Integrators must do to capture market share, we sought out cruise industry VSAT veteran, Brent Horwitz. With over twenty years in the industry, much of it with industry leader, MTN, Brent's perception of the industry is wide and and deep.
Satellite Mobility World: Brent, we are all aware of the rapidly increasing demand for bandwidth in the Cruise Industry - what are the primary drivers of this phenomenon?
Brent: Internet services on cruise ships generate at least $350 Million per year and are the fastest growing revenue segment for the industry, surpassing casinos and shore excursions. There are several factors driving the rapid expansion of capacity.
First of all, cruise companies compete not so much with other cruise companies but with land based resorts that have access to low cost terrestrial bandwidth. So, the resorts can offer Internet connectivity similar to the at home experience. Consequently, the cruise industry needs to offer competitive services.
Secondly, there is a growing addiction to Social Media as cruisers of all ages want to share their onboard experiences with their friends and relatives, and their ability to do this has been complimented by the introduction of Wi-Fi capable smart phones and small, lightweight tablets.
Thirdly, the Industry needs to attract the next generation of cruisers, the Millennials. Unlike the current crop of older cruisers who are Internet "immigrants," the younger crowd are Internet "Natives." For them, connectivity is not an add on feature but an integral part of the cruise experience. That's why we see the addition of social media packages to Cruise connectivity offerings.
Finally, the use of Social Media has resulted in a shift in the typical bandwidth required for down-link and up-link. Until recently 70% of the traffic was to the ship, and now, with uploads of videos and photos, the balance is more like 50% to the ship and 50% on the return. So, significant more bandwidth is required to accommodate capacity on the return link. As well, while a 400 Watt BUC was rarely seen in the past, they are now becoming commonplace.
Satellite Mobility World: Given the vast increase in demand for bandwidth in these markets, do you think that the Cruise lines will ever buy bandwidth directly from the Satellite Operators, bypassing the Integrators?
Brent: While Satellite Operators may be in a better position to access large bandwidth pools in the past, the amounts of BW required by the Industry is so large that it is becoming very difficult to easily shift BW capacity from one area to another area i.e. from the Caribbean to the Med.
In addition, Satellite Operators are really not equipped to provide the level of services required to successfully serve the cruise industry. Bandwidth management is only one of many issues in providing superior services to a fleet of cruise vessels.
As the provision of connectivity is a significant profit center, Cruise Lines demand 100% uptime. Achievement of this rigorous standard requires continuous management of connectivity.
NOC personnel must deal with blockage issues, interference, when to switch to alternative frequencies and even local licensing issues (when VSATs must be turned off as ships approach port). Furthermore, they must know where each antenna is mounted, satellite "look angles" and when a ship may be "distressed" several days in advance.
To manage such a complex operation, Integrators will typically employ small, dedicated teams of technicians who know the needs of each vessel intimately well and attend to the needs of a small group of ships. Vessels are also provided with a dedicated service representative who is their single point of contact. In addition to providing this highly focused and customized management approach, maintenance takes on a high level of importance.
Spare parts must be pre-tested and positioned around the world, and technicians must be available on a moments notice to fly to a vessel and affect repairs. So management of a large fleet of cruise vessels is as much an art as a technical challenge.
Satellite Mobility World: Given the commoditization of BW and downward pressure on prices, what can Integrators do to enhance the value of their services, differentiate their offerings and enhance margins?
Brent Horwitz: First of all, as bandwidth prices drop , the volume is increasing many fold. Of all of the contracts in which I was involved over the last three years, new or renewals, each vessel added 200 to 300 per-cent capacity. Demand is increasing exponentially and even though margins may be thin, net profit can still be substantial. Other value added services that can enhance margins include:
Provision and management of the Internet Cafe;
Crew Calling Services;
Live TV: At Global Eagle we provided 12 TV channels on a Global Basis. Content and connectivity are usually separated and Lines like to buy "a la carte."
A monitoring portal enabling IT personnel to track downstream and upstream bandwidth on each ship and monitor performance over selected time intervals and other software enabling them to see how efficiently they are using the bandwidth;
Assisting the IT people aboard the vessel to identify slack periods of passenger demand when crew and IT personnel can use the network;
Provision of terrestrial Wi-Fi while a ship is in port to facilitate transmission of high volume data to cruise management personnel onshore.
Integration of the satellite connectivity and telephone services with the vessels LAN and WAN and optimization i.e. use of Riverbed appliances.
Provision of software to enable deep packet inspection.
Satellite Mobility World: Given the vast increase
in demand for bandwidth what trends in hardware
do you envision in the near and not too distant
Brent: Their are major changes in both Hub and
Modem and antenna infrastructure. While TDMA was the traditional standard, the need for ultra high speed dedicated links is driving the cruise industry to a new breed of infrastructure featuring DVBS2X on the down-link and high capacity Dynamic SCPC on the return. New Modems designed by Comtech EF Data and Newtec feature this technology and are said to facilitate speeds as high as 400 Mbps. The antennas side is seeing similar changes.
Single frequency antennas are being replaced by units that can dynamically switch between C and Ku-Band, and the use of high capacity, flat panel, Electronically Steered Antennas is on the Horizon. Cruise executives find the flat panels especially attractive as they eliminate the unsightly domes that dominate the profile of their ships, as well as the maintenance issues associated with mechanically steerable antennas.
Satellite Mobility World: Given the rapid evolution of bandwidth demand and technology in the Cruise Industry, what trends and threats do you see beyond the issues we have already discussed?
Brent Horwitz: One of the interesting trends in the industry is the shift away from charging passengers by the time they are on-line. We are seeing daily pricing plans - like in hotels - and plans that cover usage for an entire cruise. A potential risk will be that consumer will demand free Internet which would disrupt the current revenue model.
With the prices of bandwidth falling rapidly, I believe terms will shorten and/or contracts will mandate that pricing be adjusted as BW prices decline or new technologies emerge. Most contracts will likely be three years or less.
In terms of threats, 5G could reduce the amount of dollars the Cruise lines allocate to satellite connectivity. For example, as cruise vessels really spend the majority of their time in ports of call, assuming 5G is available and licensing requirements permit, 5G could substitute for some degree of satellite use.
Satellite Mobility World: What about O3b? Oasis of the Seas and several other ultra large vessels have deployed the technology. What is its future in the Cruise Industry?
Brent: I think the potential for O3b is limited. First of all, it can only cover geographies up to 42 degrees North or South of the Equator which limits most of its usage area to the Caribbean and Southern Mediterranean.
In addition, 384 Mbps is suitable only for the very largest cruise vessels, a tiny percentage of the 330 + vessels in the fleet. On smaller vessels, dedication of a single beam would be wasteful and might even be uneconomic.
Of course, at the moment, the ultimate barrier is the high cost, an estimated $750,000 or more per/vessel and the large amount of deck real estate required for deployment. While flat panel antenna technology could mitigate the cost and space required for installation, the economics of deployment on smaller vessels would still be in question.
Satellite Mobility World: What about LEOs and, in particular OneWeb? What sort of impact would they have on the market?
Brent: Combined with Flat Panel Antennas, OneWeb or a similar constellation could have significant impact. High throughput and low latency and, in particular, the use of the Ku-Band frequency and solid state antennas capable of tracking multiple satellites simultaneously could be tremendously attractive.
Satellite Mobility World: Thank you Brent for your insights. I think you have really added significantly to our understanding of cruise market and the unique opportunities and challenges it offers.
Brent's website is www.NextWaveSolutionsInc.com.
VSAT for Cruise: A Boom Greater than Imagined
An Interview with Industry Expert Brent Horwitz, formerly Sr. V.P. MTN...
"Internet services on cruise ships generate at least $350 Million per year and are the fastest growing revenue segment for the industry, surpassing casinos and shore excursions."
Flat panel manufacturer Phasor is the likely leader in this market as its antennas can be "daisy chained" together to increase capacity on both send and receive links, an especially relevant feature given the need to provide ultra high speed links on the up-link as well as the down-link.
Use of the Phasor antennas would be especially attractive in the river cruise segment as these vessels often have to pass under low bridges, making the deployment of traditional domed antennas impractical.
Phasor has already announced an agreement with Caprock to provide its antennas to the cruise market and is expected to deliver its first antennas early in 2018.
About Brent Horwitz:
Brent Horwitz is the founder and Chief Engagement Officer of NextWave Solutions, Inc., a specialized consultancy that serves as trusted advisors to cruise industry executives and enables companies with new ideas, disruptive technologies and creative business models to successfully penetrate the cruise market.
He most recently served as President of Cruise & Ferry for Emerging Markets Communications (now Global Eagle), which acquired MTN Satellite Communications in 2015. In this capacity, Horwitz managed MTN’s largest and most profitable business unit with annual sales exceeding $100 million. During his 17 year tenure, MTN captured an approximate 80% global market share, serving more than 25 cruise and ferry customers across six continents.
In addition to connectivity, Horwitz actively managed a multitude of high-growth onboard revenue offerings, including overseeing the industry’s largest turnkey Internet café and Wi-Fi solution installed on 165 vessels, transforming the industry’s foremost calling solution utilized daily by 100,000 shipboard staff and launching the industry’s first fully digital global television service, broadcasting 12 licensed channels to over 100 ships across 27 cruise lines.
Horwitz holds a BA from the University of Maryland at College Park and an MBA in entrepreneurship and management from Nova Southeastern University.
An Interview with Kevin Steen, iDirect's New CEO
iDirect and the Satellite Industry's Future
The Satellite Industry is in the midst of a massive transition. Demand for satellite bandwidth is exploding and numerous new, HTS GEO and LEO constellations are either in the launch or planning stages. In mobility, Satellite Operators are seeing a huge increase in demand for bandwidth in the Cruise, Ferry and Aviation markets. With the popularization of Social Media and the surge in video and photo uploads, Operators, and Integrators are facing the challenge of providing ultra high speed connectivity not only on the down-link but on the return link as well.
While TDMA platforms have dominated the mobility sector (i.e. iDirect), Hub and Modem manufacturers iDirect, Newtech and Comtech are locked in a race to develop the technologies that can handle the capabilities of the new HTS GEOs and LEO satellites. As an early leader in the mobility sector and the dominant provider of TDMA technology, iDirect's strategies and technology development road map are of particular interest. To find out how the company views the challenges ahead, we interviewed Kevin Steen, iDirect's New CEO:
Satellite Mobility World: You joined iDirect in 2010 as VP of Business Development, why did you choose Satellite? At were your original goals, and do you feel you have you achieved them? How is the industry different today?
Kevin: Back in 2010, I believed that the demand for Satellite connectivity was about to explode. At that time, I saw many parallels between the cellular and Satellite Industry as well as the terrestrial fiber industry. All of them are about access, connectivity and bandwidth that is required to run enterprises, governments and countries. I knew that the satellite industry could solve many issues that were not well addressed by either cellular or terrestrial bandwidth resources, and that the Satellite Industry would go through a similar transition experienced by the cellular and terrestrial segments. Satellite will become a primary access technology and will have its place running IP traffic side by side with terrestrial and wireless. The technology has key advantages over the other technologies.
Those key advantages are that it is ubiquitous, easy to deploy, and optimal for mobility networks. To deploy a large scale satellite network the customer does not have to worry about inter connects to different technologies or networks. For example, you don’t have to use one technology in one part of the world and a different technology or network provider in another; you can bring together a global network under one provider.
Additionally, satellite is the perfect solution for mobility. Given the increased role of satellite and the falling price of satellite bandwidth per bit, I see a potential for merging all three technologies – terrestrial, cellular and satellite – under single access providers. Today, we see new disruptors. For example, the merger of Intelsat and OneWeb, will continue to propel us in that direction. The amount of capital investment going into such ventures also supports this thesis, as the telecom industry experienced a similar occurrence in both fiber and wireless.
My primary goal at iDirect has always been to ensure our clients have the best technology and services in our industry to grow their businesses and capitalize on the dramatic changes that are happening in the industry today. From a ground platform perspective, how could we speed up the development process? What technologies can we leverage from other industries instead of developing it ourselves? For example, if we look at how a client can take advantage of capacity from two separate networks, we may leverage the work the cellular industry has done to roam between service providers. This sort of thinking increases the pace of innovation, minimizes the risk of the unproven technology and reduces capital investment.
We have also looked beyond our own hub and modem infrastructure and looked at the network as a whole. Our clients are not looking for a niche technology provider, they are looking for a trusted business partner than can assist in solving the entire business problem. This has lead us to work more broadly with the core networking ecosystem from a networking layer, management, RF and terminal perspective. What I want to ensure is that our customers can meet their connectivity needs regardless of frequencies or access technology deployed. These are the themes driving my leadership at iDirect.
The entrance of High Throughput Satellites was our first major ‘shift forward’. The increase in performance of this new capacity and the explosive amount of new bandwidth continues to bring the total cost of satellite services down and to position satellite as a mainstream access technology. It was one of the first drivers as I joined iDirect to ensure our infrastructure could unlock the power of these satellites and enable a new cost model for operators and providers. This in turn is broadening existing markets and opening new markets. The second shift was the entrance of disruptors who see that satellite can be a mainstream access technology, and the continued advancement of technology that they are driving. With the development of our Velocity platform, that is now the standard for many of the leading HTS operators. I believe we are well on our way to meeting our objectives.
Satellite Mobility World: For the past several years, iDirect has led the mobility industry with its TDMA platform. However, the demand for bandwidth is soaring and in many markets (i.e. Cruise, Yachts), asymmetrical links are are evolving to symmetrical links as Social Media users seek to upload video and photos.
While iDirect had developed DVBS2X across its platform, for the down down-link, it is faced with significant competition from providers offering Dynamic SCPC on the return link. How does the Company plan to counter this threat from its competitors and maintain its position as the industry leader?
Kevin: When looking at today’s satellite IP networks, throughput is clearly an important and critical element. You must also look at the entire end to end infrastructure and corresponding requirements to truly understand what problems need to be solved. An advanced ground infrastructure must seamlessly integrate into the provider’s core network. It must be able to handle seamless beam switching that is increasingly critical for an HTS spot beam architecture so that sessions and calls are not dropped. It must be able to scale. Additionally, that ground network must be able to meet or exceed throughput requirements.
First, on the outbound, or down-link, using DVB-S2X, we have achieved almost 6 Bits/Hz which has been confirmed in our over the air tests on several different satellites. That is a major feat. Efficiency is just one requirement. An advanced ground infrastructure also needs to support future satellite innovations such as intelligent payloads and beam hopping that are part of a new breed of satellites with much larger transponders and onboard processing capabilities. We are the only TDMA provider that has developed such a chip. Regarding the shift from asymmetrical to symmetrical transmission. It’s not 50/50 yet but it appears to be headed in that direction.
Now, let’s talk about the return channel. Today we are pushing ATDMA inbounds to new heights. With capabilities of 15 Msps and 29 Msps in some cases we are meeting a large amount of today’s and tomorrow’s use cases in Aero and Cruise. Beyond that we are looking at new innovations such as DVB-S2X point-to-point and dynamic DVB-S2X returns. We have already done testing of the point to point alternative over the air and have achieved some promising results. In addition we have tested a dynamic S2X version in the lab. With our new ultra-high speed capability on the inbound, we address high business needs of our clients. We believe that when you combine both our unique mobility features, such as seamless beam switching, with these new outbound capabilities (i.e. beam hopping) we provide the industries best solution.
Satellite Mobility World: A significant amount of work and investment has gone into your project with Inmarsat. What is your view of the ultimate potential of the venture?
Kevin: Inmarsat is a great partner, and they are already seeing promising acceptance rates across many markets. The experience we have gained working hand in hand with Inmarsat has been of immeasurable value and we are continuing to partner with them to introduce the next generation of technology for their services. What was a first to market for them as a global, Ka-band, high quality service also resulted in the development of our Velocity platform.
Today that platform has been adopted by leading satellite operators to enable them to bring new HTS services to market. With Intelsat launching their managed service, IntelsatOne Flex, on this platform, SES with their Maritime +, and Telenor in full service. We have seen extremely positive results and return on our investment in developing a platform that can handle spot beam environments, enable a portfolio of business and service models and deliver a high speed seamless experience for the end users.
Satellite Mobility World: Due to the deployment of HTS Satellites, Operators are rapidly adopting a Managed Service model. In many cases, this means that Integrators will buy MHz capacity for their high demand areas and Mbps capacity for areas of low demand density. So, vessels or aircraft will need to roam seamlessly between their own network and the Operators network. What progress has iDirect made in the implementation of roaming functionality?
Kevin: Roaming is a very interesting topic. There are use cases where roaming has become a requirement of the network operator and also the service provider. If a single integrator is running an iDirect platform, our system allows them to move back and forth between these types of models on the satellite. Our platform also enables them to bring together both networks in one single view so they can set up different service plans using the Group QOS feature. Thus, they can manage a combination of an Operator’s managed service network and their own MHz managed network on our NMS platform. The important point to keep in mind is that both networks need to be running on the same iDirect platform.
In the next case: roaming between two satellite operators using different satellites, there has been interest in this functionality, and developing it is on our list of priorities. In the case where a customer moves from network “a” to network “b,” or vice versa, the network operator who services that end customer needs to continue to manage that end point regardless of the network or satellite it is on. That’s where the end to end core architecture is key, and that’s where we can leverage roaming technology from the cellular industry. For example, one of the technologies is called an “evolved packet core.” The cellular industry faced the same challenge, they figured it out, and we are leveraging that technology for a time to market advantage.
Satellite Mobility World: It is my understanding that currently roaming between networks with different infrastructure is not possible. Do you see a point when a common standard will be implemented to allow users to roam from one infrastructure to another i.e. from an iDirect network to a Comtech or Newtec network?
Kevin: What we are talking about now is whether there will be a modem capable of talking to multiple hubs from varying competitors i.e. iDirect to Newtec, Comtech, etc? This is what happened in the cellular industry. The key to interoperability between different vendors is open Standards that also promote innovation. S2X is an important standard for our industry. iDirect will continue to invest in open standards and interoperability as long as it drives innovation for our clients.
Satellite Mobility World: Given the enormous number of satellite beams in the deployment of a LEO constellation, how does iDirect plan to handle the Hub and Modem infrastructure required by hundreds or even thousands of satellites. What are the challenges and anticipated Hub, Modem and Line Cards?
Kevin: We started working on this a long time ago. Key elements are virtualization and centralized computing. What I mean is move your IP data processing to a central place. Whether you move it to a data center or to a private cloud or all the way to the Public Cloud, you eliminate the distributed infrastructure that is not cost effective to duplicate i.e. processing power in the infrastructure at each teleport.
Think of an iDirect line card. Half of it is RF and the other half is digital. Shifting the digital processing to a central location not only reduces cost in our infrastructure but also reduces supportive infrastructure such as cooling, power, and rack space in the teleport itself. You can remove the processing infrastructure from the Gateway and eliminate many of the problems you are describing.
Regarding the Line Cards themselves, you enhance their ability by allowing them to address the larger transponders characteristic of HTS satellites. So, you don’t need as many Line Cards as you do today to address each and every satellite and each and every beam. One satellite will be able to serve multiple gateways – a capability that exists in our Velocity platform and we are working on the technology to allow multiple satellites to address a single gateway. This is the technology that will address the requirements in the new world of multi-orbital services Together, we expect these features will significantly reduce the total cost of ownership for the teleport infrastructure, from space to maintenance to resiliency to upgrading the software.
Satellite Mobility World: Kevin, thanks so much for your time. I found much of what you said quite interesting. In particular, I'm certain our readers will be interested in your up-link solution and your plan to minimize infrastructure and improve economics cost through centralization of processing.
About Kevin Steen:
Kevin Steen is president and chief executive officer of VT iDirect, a global leader in IP-based satellite communications. Steen joined VT iDirect in 2010 and has served as a key member of VT iDirect’s leadership team, where he has been responsible for charting the company’s strategic growth across sales, operations and business development. Steen has led a major effort across VT iDirect and its global partner base to advance the role of satellite technology in the end-to-end telecom network; identify new market opportunities for satellite communications, and collaborate with VT iDirect’s ecosystem to co-develop industry-leading technology.
Steen has more than 20 years of experience in technology business development and operating executive positions. Prior to joining VT iDirect, he was Vice President of Mergers and Acquisitions at SAP Americas, where he participated in strategic M&A activities.
Steen holds an MBA from Northeastern University and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Denver. He sits on several boards in a financial and operations advisory capacity.
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