By Matthieu Richard, Product Marketing Manager, Maritime and Aero The maritime sector helps drive the global economy, and it relies on communications to perform. But for decades, the throughput available to vessels has been minimal. Maritime operators have maximized the bandwidth they have had, but fleet owners and operators are on the cusp of a transformation. In the second quarter of 2016, the first Intelsat Epic satellite will begin delivering high-powered Ku-band connectivity. Commercial shipping vessels and tankers operating in the North Atlantic, as well as cruise ships and other leisure vessels in the Caribbean, will be among the first to take advantage of its enhanced throughput, without having to switch out their existing hardware. The launch of Intelsat 33e in the second half of 2016 will spread the reach of Intelsat Epic to the Mediterranean, Africa and portions of Asia. We will complete the global footprint of Intelsat Epic in 2018 with the launch of Horizons 3e for the Pacific Ocean region.  Intelsat has four additional Intelsat Epic satellites under construction to provide customers with seamless, global and resilient high throughput satellite (HTS) coverage whenever and wherever they need it. The availability of Intelsat Epic HTS connectivity anywhere on the globe, combined with more innovative antenna and ground technology, will help drive several trends in the maritime sector – starting in 2016.
  1. First is the continued move toward VSAT services. We have seen a significant shift in perception and acceptance of VSAT in the last couple of months and the survey we conducted in 2015 with Futurenautics showed that an overwhelming proportion (86%) of ship owners and ship operators would choose VSAT or high throughput VSAT for their fleet’s future data requirements. 2016 will see the reinforcement of that trend as customers start to enjoy the benefit of higher performance connectivity with Intelsat Epic.
  2. The second trend is the improvement in onboard operations that VSATs will enable. Operators will have access to a wider range of enhanced applications, constant connections with headquarters and other vessels, and access to better-quality crew welfare options. The positive impact of the use of advanced VSAT applications will have a noticeable impact on bottom lines throughout the maritime sector.
  3. Third, as more equipment on-board begins to generate data — and operators realize they now have the capability to transmit and analyze it — we will see the emergence of more advanced route optimization and condition-based maintenance as well as an entirely new set of services enabled by big data. As the Internet of Things wave sweeps the shipping industry, it is destined to take full hold on maritime operations in the form of the connected ship.
Ultimately, these three trends – VSAT services, improved onboard operations and ever more capable applications – will transform the maritime communications sector, delivering benefits for fleet owners, crews and even the global economy. Powering this transformation will be the Intelsat Epic platform with scalable networks supporting hundreds of vessels in a region with high performance capacity and an efficiency level that allows service providers and cruise operators to deliver a highly coveted shipboard amenity.