COMMUNICATIONS Sea of change Coles pointed out the rapid rate of change in the marine market is driven by technology, communications and concerns for the environment. Consumers on shore are leading the trend in communications and shipping needs to catch up. In 2016, the industry will take a great leap forward with the launch of a new faster constellation of Boeing-built satellites. The satellites, the Inmarsat-5, will be the backbone for Inmarsat’s new Global Xpress (GX) service. A “game changer,” as Coles calls it, GX will be 10 times faster than Inmarsat’s popular Fleet Broadband service. It is expected to provide global coverage this year or early in 2015, with data delivery performance of up to 50Mbps, compared with the maximum 432Kbps of the current top-level FleetBroadband service that was launched in 2007. The 50 Mbps speeds are comparable or provide better access than most consumers have at home. The maritime market makes up about 55% of Inmarsat’s business. Currently, its Fleet Broadband has 42,000 maritime users. “The driver for everything is communications. The smartphone is useless without communications,” Coles told Marine Log. Inmarsat chose Apigee’s API (application programming interface) platform to enable Inmarsat’s Certified Application Providers (CAPs) to develop apps that will harness the power of Global Xpress. In December 2013, Inmarsat launched the first of three Inmarsat-5 satellites, with the second and third Global Xpress (GX) satellites scheduled to be launched during the course of 2014. Inmarsat’s f leet of three high throughput satellites will offer a unique combination of seamless global Ka-band coverage from a single operator, consistent higher performance of up to 50Mbps to mobile or fixed terminals.
Apigee will enable Inmarsat to open up its APIs to its CAPs. The technology allows Inmarsat’s partners to build applications for their market sectors with the GX network’s significantly higher bandwidth, offering a completely new scope for the delivery of services and applications. Inmarsat is working with 75 partner companies that will be CAPs to the service enablement platform. One of those is a company called DigiGone, which provides advanced videoconferencing services. For example, DigGone and the Maritime Medical Access Program at The George Washington University (GWU) Medical Faculty Associates have teamed up to offer an advanced shipboard video telemedicine service for the international maritime industry to help clients meet the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) 2006 requirements for crew healthcare. Dig igone has a lso developed applications for crew communication and security. That includes a product called DigiCrew, which allows crew to communicate using video, chat and IM using very low bandwidth—90 percent lower than traditional social media applications. So how do you convince ship operators of the Return on Investment? Coles says that during a downturn you should spend more on operations to run your ship more efficiently. “Ship’s communications represents only about 1 percent of the total operating expenditures of the ship,” he says. Coles says that it is really about delivering the new generation of communications and service enablement to shipping, even if it is “dragged kicking and screaming” to embrace technology that will finally enable it to run ships that are more efficient, environmentally friendly, and better for the crew. ■
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20 MARINE LOG May 2014