London: Sometimes at home you might get irritated with that moment when, however fast your internet purports to be, the video you’re watching starts to buffer, or the music cuts off. Typically a home internet connection runs at 5MB per second. Inmarsat’s soon-to-launch Global Xpress clocks in at a stunningly fast 50MB per second, a big upgrade from its industry leading Fleet Broadband, which runs along at 432KB per second. That season of Game of Thrones could be downloaded very quickly all of a sudden, even in the middle of the Pacific.
Frank Coles, president of Inmarsat Maritime, the world’s leading provider of satellite communications services to the merchant, fishing and leisure marine sectors, is well aware of the changing needs of his clients.
“Over the past 12 months we’ve noticed a distinct change in attitude emerging,” he tells Maritime CEO. “There is a realization that while having competitive rates is crucial to securing business, it leaves new grounds for differentiation.”
He is adamant that every shipowner has to price their vessels competitively or they’ll simply not win contracts.
The key change that he has noticed as a service provider is this: “The new strategies are focused on the need to innovate and, in addition to introducing their own initiatives aimed at creating differentiation,” Coles says, “shipowners are looking to their partners and suppliers to deliver new thinking too.”
In the comms market this is especially true. “The satellite business doesn’t stand still and developments are going to continue to enhance capabilities month on month, let alone year on year,” Coles says.
Coles reckons that lately shipowners view satellite communications as a “valuable business tool” and not a cost.
“Many innovations in terms of operational efficiency or crew welfare are dependent upon robust, reliable and globally available connectivity,” he says, “and our partners are demonstrating with their maritime customers that high quality services such as ours can contribute to the bottom line.”
The global downturn in the maritime industry is now in its fifth year and owners and operators have cut every cost they can think of. Added to all of this, is the continuing high price of fuel.
To compete in this environment requires a new way of thinking, maintains the Inmarsat boss.
“We are seeing investments in new technology, designed to deliver the most cost efficient vessels possible. Inmarsat is able to support these innovations through its existing portfolio of broadband services and will be further able to enhance the capability of vessels when our superfast broadband service becomes available next year,” Coles says referring to Global Xpress.
In the last year Inmarsat has amended its packages to offer more value to customers who commit to them on a monthly basis. This includes the doubling of the data allowance on 1GB and 3GB services, the launch of FleetBroadband unlimited and introducing new voice bundles of 1,400, 2,190 and 3,200 minutes.
Coles quite literally lives and breathes marine, starting out as a seafarer some 36 years ago, he admits the sea is in his blood. “When I do get time off, I like nothing better than scuba diving,” he reveals. [18/04/13]