Maritime connectivity is surging, with heightened demand expected through 2031.
Aggregate demand will grow from 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) in 2021 to more than 1,500 Gbps in 2031, according to the recent “Maritime Satcom Markets, 10th Edition” report from Northern Sky Research (NSR).
The market is comprised of two segments — commercial and passenger, Manik Vinnakota, director of product and commercial (global) at constellation operator Telesat, told Connectivity Business News. The commercial market is mainly merchant shipping, but also includes energy companies and their oil rigs. The passenger market features cruise ships as well as ferries and yachts.
There is growth “at all levels, in all segments,” Brad Grady, NSR research director, told Connectivity Business News. “Cruise ships are all reaching for ‘the best’ while trying to manage costs against guest experience, while merchant vessels are mostly cost-focused but looking to deploy new services and processes to optimize their operations.
“On a regional basis, [compound annual growth rates] will average 32% over the next 10 years,” Grady added. “Most of that growth does occur from the huge increase in passenger [and] cruise connectivity requirements, about 875 Gbps alone by 2031.”
The news comes as satellite communications provider Speedcast grew its ground capacity by 13 Gbps in May, highlighting the current pace at which demand is growing in the cruise segment. Houston-based Speedcast serves cruise demand in the Mediterranean, among other areas.
“We added 13 Gbps in the Med[iterranean] in a week,” CEO Joe Spytek previously told Connectivity Business News. “But we had an 11 Gbps shortfall in the Caribbean, where we need to find capacity in the fall. We’re nearly there.”
LEO will change maritime connectivity
Non-geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) constellations, comprising those in low Earth orbit (LEO) and middle Earth orbit (MEO), will see a strong surge in spending, according to NSR. Spending on connectivity from non-GEO high-throughput satellites will grow to upwards of $1.1 billion in 2031 from approximately $70 million per year in 2021, Grady said.
Overall, the satellite communications industry will generate $37.4 billion in cumulative revenue through 2031, according to NSR’s report.
Commercial maritime users are interested in fleet tracking for better route management to save fuel, which can constitute one-third or one-half of operational expenditures, Vinnakota told Connectivity Business News.
The cruise ship industry creates mostly seasonal, concentrating demand, according to Vinnakota. Aggregate demand could surpass 100 Gbps locally, more than GEO satellites can provide, he said.
A LEO constellation such as Telesat’s Lightspeed — which is still in the construction and financing stage — features flexible technology like programmable satellites and beams that can be aimed and adapt to meet demand surges, Vinnakota said.
Pleasure yachts are a different challenge — their owners can change plans based on a whim, making planning difficult.
But there’s also an upgrade challenge: the integration of older connectivity systems is required even as newer systems are added to a ship, NSR’s Grady said. Maritime is “one of the few industries that still uses semaphore and Morse code,” he said.
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