Northern Sky Research

Long Live C-band for Maritime!

Jan 20th, 2014 by Brad Grady   More from this Analyst | Profile

With many new HTS systems launching within the next 12 – 24 months, it is easy for classical FSS C-band capacity to get lost in the mix.  Yet, as NSR project’s in its Maritime Satellite Markets report, FSS C-band is not going anywhere – adding another 55 TPEs of capacity over the next ten years.

Maritime service providers continue to expand their FSS C-band capacity, as more end-users continue to increase their bandwidth demands.  Even KVH recently announced a doubling of the capacity for two of the three global C-band beams of its mini-VSAT Broadband network.  Given C-band’s near ubiquitous coverage for maritime markets (minus the polar regions), high tolerance for rain-fade, and almost 8,000 In-service units by 2022, FSS C-band still has a lot of momentum within the marketplace.  But the real question remains: could there be an end in-sight for FSS C-band for maritime markets?

In short, it is unlikely within even the next 15 years.  Even as GEO-HTS C-band based systems come online, their limited coverage outside of major areas of maritime concentration (such as Atlantic shipping routes or centers of Oil & Gas concentration) continues to bolster support for the traditional FSS C-band networks.  Although merchant maritime traffic will follow highly predictable routes between the major land-masses, other maritime markets continue to roam the oceans – from cruise ship routes opening up within the Pacific, new areas of O&G activity, to ongoing military activities throughout the high seas.  These are all heavy users of FSS C-band capacity and even with the introduction of GEO-HTS and MEO-HTS, they will continue to rely on FSS C-band.

Even merchant shipping – the largest market for maritime satellite-based connectivity – will continue to lean on FSS C-band capacity to enable highly robust network availability at higher throughputs and better price-points than MSS-based offerings can strictly provide.  And, robust network design continues to be the significant factor in FSS C-band’s appeal.  However, some steady migration of FSS C-band from primary to co-primary or secondary roles will impact the per-unit revenue growth prospects for service providers going forward.  As more traffic shifts towards FSS Ku-band, GEO-HTS or MEO-HTS solutions, ARPU will likewise decline.  Instead, revenues will be driven by new vessels coming online with hybrid systems installed where FSS C-band will remain a critical component for service providers to enable high network availability regardless of vessel location.

Taking the lead, offshore maritime markets and passenger vessels will be the largest consumers of FSS C-band capacity due in part for their need for high availability (both in frequency and in coverage), and larger bandwidth demands compared to other maritime markets such as fishing or merchant shipping.  With frequent travels outside of major maritime shipping routes, including trans-oceanic transit of vessels between regional hot-spots, FSS C-band will remain a critical component of their connectivity solutions.  In short, hybrid solutions with a combination of FSS C-band and GEO-HTS will be a leading network design going forward within the offshore and passenger vessel market. 

Not to be forgotten, FSS Ku-band will remain a critical piece of the connectivity puzzle for maritime end-users, with demand spread almost equally across the maritime market.  But, for the higher-end verticals, and higher-end maritime customers, FSS C-band prospects still remain strong.

Bottom Line

With many other satellite markets shifting away from FSS C-band, the maritime market remains a strong market with ongoing bandwidth growth prospects.  Driven by the higher-end segments of the market – larger passenger vessels, offshore end-users – FSS C-band will remain a key ingredient for maritime service providers looking to capture high-end customers… alongside investments into GEO-HTS architectures.

Information for this article was extracted from NSR's report: Maritime Satellite Markets.