The demand for mobile satellite services (MSS) in the maritime sector is expected to escalate due to crew welfare solutions, as users are beginning to expect Internet connectivity and access as the norm. As both equipment and solution prices reduce, smaller vessels are beginning to embrace satellite communication services. The new generation of Internet savvy seafarers expects connectivity wherever they are, to stay in touch with family and friends.
Ship owners are actively adopting satellite communication to attract and retain skilled crew in this highly competitive marketplace. Pressures to manage cost and large fleet sizes have forced ship owners to consider applications for weather, routing, monitoring, and security to gain an advantage over the competition.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (space.frost.com), Maritime Market Study - Satellite Communications, finds that market earned revenues of over $9.20 billion in 2008 and estimates this to reach $27.36 billion in 2013.
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While factors such as increasing demand for bandwidth from the next generation of crew, and land-based applications moving to the maritime environment are boosting the MSS market prospects, there is stiff competition from low-cost, fixed rate very small aperture terminal (VSAT) services. Hybrid solutions that offer 'least cost routing' as well as declining equipment and services prices can supplant MSS as the main choice for communications on board vessels.
"While regulatory requirements will ensure MSS's place on vessels, declining revenues are expected to force innovations in compression and other forms of integration as terrestrial wireless coverage continues to grow and provide further alternative for large data transfers," says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Salim Abu Haniffa. "However, the current global economy has hit the shipping industry hard, and entrenched service providers and services that are a necessity rather than options are expected to be able to weather the economic storm."
The pay-as-you-go model, bundled plans, and pre-paid minutes have rendered air time charges for high usage MSS expensive. While the service charges are lower for VSAT, initial investment for equipment is prohibitive for most ship owners. As bigger vessels look to manage their cost and streamline their fleet management through higher bandwidth applications, MSS operators have risen to the demand by devising creative pricing schemes and rolling out products that have bridged the gap at 128 Kbps and 432 Kbps.
In this competitive market, geographic presence, integrated multi-platform solutions, and value added services are necessary to establish customer loyalty as technological innovations continue to appear to meet market demands.
"Quality of service and increased capacity is critical to retaining customers," says Haniffa. "Trends indicate that the demand for bandwidth will continue on an upward trajectory and service providers must lower entry costs associated with satellite services to make it a more attractive solution for vessels to reap productivity gains by using satellite."
Of late, VSAT service charges are beginning to meet MSS price points and overcoming the latter's reputation as a high-end solution for large merchant vessels and the oil and gas industry. New leasing options may unfold new pricing structures that will appeal to ship owners. Emerging solutions are expected to bolster the demand for VSAT and MSS, and hybrid solutions will provide the means for the two services to complement each other.
Maritime Market Study - Satellite Communications is part of the Space Communications Growth Partnership Service program, which also includes research in the following markets: world MSS voice and data services markets, satellite machine-to-machine (M2M) markets, and Asia Pacific mobile satellite services markets. All research services included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends that have been evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.
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Maritime Market Study - Satellite Communications / N402