Northern Sky Research

Has VSAT Won the Maritime Market?

Jul 16th, 2015 by Brad Grady   More from this Analyst | Profile

With the focus of the industry on HTS vs. FSS, LEO; MEO or GEO; or C- vs. Ku- vs. Ka-bands; it is sometimes easy to forget about the MSS segment of the maritime sector.  As the larger side of the maritime market in 2014, both by In-service Units and retail revenues, it is quickly becoming the ‘legacy’ part of the maritime satcom industry – not just true legacy services such as Inmarsat-B, but MSS-enabled services as a whole.  For good reason, data and the demand for data is changing the entire maritime market, from fishing vessels who need to report their positions at regular intervals to the latest social media service on cruise ships to the rapidly increasing number of sensors on offshore or merchant vessels.

Data continues to drive the maritime market.  Although it is easy to paint a picture that VSAT is ‘winning' the maritime battle, and by a lot of measures it is/not far off, there still remains a strong market for MSS offerings; not only for critical safety-certified applications, but as helping to enable the cycle of data consumption for maritime customers.  By NSR’s latest study of the maritime market, NSR’s Maritime Satcom Markets, 3rd Edition there still remains upwards of $1.4 Billion dollars’ worth of growth over the next ten years for MSS maritime markets.

It is certainly true that a prime target for VSAT offerings will be high usage MSS Broadband customers across the merchant, fishing, offshore, and passenger segments.  However, there still remain a number of un-connected and under-connected vessels of all sizes in the greater maritime segment who are still likely to start off with an MSS connection as they start the ladder of data-addiction.  Especially where smaller vessels have typically forgone a satellite connection, the changing dynamics of the maritime satcom market will continue to push into these smaller vessel footprints, and other vessel demographics where it simply doesn’t make sense to invest in VSAT infrastructure. 

With both regulatory and business needs increasingly focused on gathering, processing, and acting on ‘big data’, MSS narrowband can and will remain a strong offering for tracking containers, fishing vessels, or even within the leisure segment.  Although these vessels and applications will not be a significant per-unit source of revenue, with upwards of hundreds of thousands of these in-service units to be in the market by 2024, it provides an ongoing opportunity for what will become ‘legacy’ product offerings in the era of HTS.  Just as we are seeing across the space industry with nanosats and cubesats providing new and innovative applications, cheap will not mean useless or insignificant (or to be forgotten).

Bottom Line

Not even large numbers of In-service Units, emerging vessel tracking requirements, situational awareness applications, or feeding ‘big data’ services can defeat an overall trend in the market – even fisherman need more data.  With safety-centric services evolving beyond a simple voice or text alert into incorporating weather, sensor data, or video feeds, the role of MSS in the maritime market will continue to evolve.  Yet, that evolution will not only serve to provide opportunities for current service and application providers, but likely serve as the first rung on the ladder of higher data demand.  And, even at higher bandwidth demand locations, connectivity will be a mix of both MSS and VSAT, not an either/or set of solutions.

NSR is experienced in evaluating maritime user demand, requirements and technology across MSS, FSS and HTS platforms, including extensive maritime end user advisory.  Please contact Christopher Baugh for more information.