Digital Ship May 2011 page 2
Vol 11 No 8
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The strategic reasoning that Inmarsat hasoutlined for the Ship Equip acquisition liesin creating a ‘fast start’ for the GlobalXpress programme, something which thecompany was very keen to achieve oncework on the project began, as JamesCollett, head of maritime business atInmarsat, explains.“This is all about improving our returnon Global Xpress. One thought was thathaving a ready-made maritime VSATbusiness would be a good way of acceler-ating the Global Xpress business, as wewould have an immediate customer basewhich we could transfer onto our Ka-bandcapacity,” he told us.“We will have through Ship Equip about900 customers, and increasing, who areready-made Global Xpress early adopters.”The markets in which Ship Equip hasbeen successful are markets which Inmarsathas identified as key prospect markets forthe new Ka-band service, including sec-tors like North Sea fisheries, offshore and,increasingly, the tanker market.“There are areas where Ship Equip hasbeen successful where we see opportuni-ties for Global Xpress, and they will bringbusiness benefits in this respect,” saidMr Collett.“In terms of their business model, it’sslightly different to some other maritimeVSAT businesses, and it’s a model theyhave been very successful at fine tuning.Their whole installation and commission-ing process is certainly ‘best of breed’, interms of their time taken from getting anorder through to having that vesselequipped, commissioned and at sea with arevenue generating terminal on it.”“Installing VSAT antennas means thatyou’re probably talking days rather thanhours as is the case with FleetBroadband,but in terms of a speedy, customer focusedservice Ship Equip are probably closer tothe FleetBroadband way of doing thingsthan other VSAT providers.”Once the deal is closed Inmarsatexpects to position Ship Equip as an inde-pendent business unit, which will sitalongside the Stratos business and operatewith an independent management team just as Stratos does.“We will work very closely with them,both from the perspective of the existingmaritime business and from the perspec-tive of the Global Xpress programme,”said Mr Collett.“Ship Equip will operate independent-ly, but conversely they will, through theirexpertise, be able to assist us tremendous-ly in terms of contributing market knowl-edge to the Global Xpress offer for themaritime market.”“Their management team has a reallystrong track record in opening up marketsfor maritime VSAT, and we want to har-ness that experience.”At the moment there are no definiteplans for the Ship Equip business to alsoact as a Distribution Partner (DP) for exist-ing Inmarsat services, though the compa-ny will be expected to contribute what itcan to overall market efforts for technolo-gy like FleetBroadband.“We can’t comment at the momentabout where they would fit in as a DP orotherwise, but certainly they will be com-ing across sales opportunities forFleetBroadband on a daily basis and weexpect that Ship Equip will look at waysthey can maximise L-band opportunitieswith what they currently sell,” saidMr Collett.“This is an ideal opportunity to be look-ing at models for such combinations.”
Ku- and C-band contracts
One interesting aspect of Inmarsat takingover the Ship Equip business is that it willnow hold contracts for Ku-band and C-band services from other competing satel-lite operators.However, Mr Collett notes thatInmarsat has no intention of continuingwith Ku- or C-band services any longerthan is necessary under the obligations ofthese contracts, and that its new VSATcustomers through Ship Equip will moveacross to the Global Xpress service as soonas possible.“This would not be the right moment totalk about the terms of those contracts, butwe will be looking at opportunities for usto quickly migrate customers from Ku-band on to Ka-band,” he said.“You would imagine that you wouldneed a bridging period where, as we makeKa-band capacity available, customerswill be moving progressively off of Ku-band on to Ka-band, but we don’t antici-pate an extended period where we wouldbe requiring both Ku-band and Ka-band.”Mr Collett believes that such users willderive a great deal of benefit from thiskind of switch, as they will be operatingon a network built to offer bandwidthspeeds never before seen in the maritimemarket, available on a global basis.“Rather than coming into this marketwith something that was taking a ‘me too’approach, we’ve had the opportunity todesign a network that will be built forserving one of our key markets – maritime– and we expect therefore to eliminate a lotof the disadvantages that sit with Ku-bandVSAT today,” he told us.“There’s been a gradual improvementin the coverage of Ku-band, but it’s stillnot global in the sense of our global capa-bilities. However, for some users that issufficient, and many currently take aFleetBroadband terminal to patch up theshortfall in their VSAT coverage.”Mr Collett also expects that the pricepoints at which the new service will beoffered to the market will prove to beattractive to VSAT users, both in terms ofantenna pricing and monthly costs.“From a user terminal perspective,whilst we recognise that maritime VSATantennas have been coming down in price,we believe that Global Xpress will bringterminal prices to a new level and will cer-tainly provide significant advantages overwhat is seen at Ku-band today,” he said.“And with considerably more capacityin the Inmarsat-5 constellation than whatwe believe is available in any other VSATnetwork today, in addition to no expectedsubstantial network investments for distri-bution partners, our expectation is that ourmaritime Global Xpress service will bemore competitive than what’s on offerfrom current maritime VSAT services.”When asked if Inmarsat sees GlobalXpress as leading to the death of Ku-bandVSAT in maritime, Mr Collett smiled as heresponded: “We’d like to think our GX(Global Xpress) service will be the solutionof choice!”
Inmarsat’s other major announcement, ofits $0.55 SRP for FleetBroadband voicecalling, is part of a concerted strategiceffort to stabilise and push renewedgrowth in the company’s maritime voicebusiness, according to Mr Collett.“In our publicly disclosed informationand what we’ve been talking about in ana-lyst briefings, it’s been clear that we’veseen a decline in maritime voice rev-enues,” he told us.“This is for several reasons, not least theconversion of higher-price legacy voiceservices, on Inmarsat-B and mini-M in par-ticular, on to lower priced voice serviceplatforms like FleetBroadband.”“In addition to that, the market hasbecome more competitive, to a certainextent from VSAT offering cheap voiceservices. So we’ve been looking at wayswhere we can improve our maritime voicebusiness, and we believe that by havingsome aggressive marketing and strongpositioning of our new services,FleetBroadband and FleetPhone, we canreturn the voice business to growthagain.”These new voice charges are part of aservice revision from 1 April 2011, and applyto both post-paid and pre-paid calling.The company’s FleetPhone service, dueto be launched on 30 June 2011, will beoffered with a similar price point toFleetBroadband with a pre-paid callingSRP of $0.55 per minute.In addition, as part of a broader guide-line on pricing, Inmarsat has said thatexisting services such as Inmarsat-B, mini-M and Fleet will also have their SuperQuiet Time (SQT) off-peak periods extend-ed to run through the whole day 365 daysa year, effective 1 May 2011.Year-round SQT pricing was already inplace for FleetBroadband, and will similar-ly apply to the FleetPhone.Inmarsat says that these new guidelinesshould see all of its maritime pre-paidvoice services available to end usersaround the clock at SRPs ranging from$0.55 to $0.95 per minute, depending onthe particular maritime service used.
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‘We have an expectation that a $0.55retail price for FleetBroadband voice willbe offered to end users’ – James Collett,Inmarsat
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