Jens Ploch, CCO of OmniAccess, explains the unique partnership with Starlink…
The Spector of Starlink had loomed large over the marine satellite communications sector since the first announcement of the ambitious interconnected constellation. Promising ubiquitous, high-speed, low-latency connectivity at a fixed rate across the entire planet, many pondered whether existing providers may be rendered obsolete.
As a journalist, I have enquired with many of the satcoms sector's key stakeholders as to potential crossroads in recent years. Usually, I have been met with a polite decline to comment. As the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation grows and with OneWeb coming online in 2023, how will the sector react to these next-generation technologies?
The September 2022 announcement that Marlink had added SpaceX’s Starlink service to its offerings was intriguing. Marlink, the parent company of superyacht services provider OmniAccess, is only the second company to become an official reseller and system integrator of Starlink. I spoke with Jens Ploch, CCO at OmniAccess, about this partnership, and the implications of working with, not against the tech behemoth will have for the superyacht sector.
“We have been talking to Starlink since they first appeared on the horizon. Until relatively recently they have been focused on volume markets with a direct to market approach and not particularly interested in partnering, but that has changed, and we are delighted to formalise this announcement” Says Ploch.
One of only two companies (the other being the USA-based satcoms specialist Speedcast), Marlink joins a very short list of Starlink partners. Market pressure, Ploch explains, eventually overcame the initial hesitancy from Starlink. “We currently have close to 400 60m+ superyachts using our services. Since Starlink Maritime was made available online, our clients have been requesting, and in some cases demanding Starlink, because they want to integrate the system. They have been trialling the RV version, why not have it on their yachts?”
Starlink Maritime has been available to yachts since its launch in early July and many have been trialling before this with RV versions of the service. Many companies offer to install it semi-integrated but running in parallel with existing systems. Starlink could then be set up with a rudimentary failover to switch to VSAT in case of disruption in the service. The Marlink and OmniAcvess partnership allows for full integration, and smart switching between different systems such as existing VSAT, shore connections and 4G / 5G services. this is consolidated into the client's connectivity solution which is fully secured and supported by the Omniaccess 24/7 NOC and SOC teams and billed on a single invoice.
Connecting a stationary house is a very different undertaking to a globally cruising superyacht, and there have been some well-publicised teething issues with the Starlink Maritime service since its rollout in 2022. Within the idiosyncratic marine sector, the connectivity demands of superyachts are even more niche and demanding.
Some disruption is not to be unexpected with a relatively new system, nor in the wider space of maritime communications. What these cases highlighted was the importance of a redundant connectivity solution that can intelligently combine different technologies and make use of the best available source depending on the application, availability and quality.
There are very few people on board outside the AV/IT specialist or engineer that fully understand the complex web of satellite-related acronyms like LEO, MEO and VSAT, and how they interact with one another. The end users only usually notice one thing - is it working?
“With our fusion data package, announced a Monaco, The ETO or AV/IT specialist just needs to ask the question – what bandwidth do I need to operate the vessel? How much-guaranteed bandwidth do I need” explains Ploch “This is what we would then contract to VSAT, Complemented by unprecedented burstable speeds thanks to Starlink and 4G and 5G in coastal waters.”
As well as a flexible system, and a reliable highspeed connection, Ploch outlines another, less intuitive benefit. “What the partnership also allows us to do is provide a much-needed premium support layer of Starlink services. With the nature of superyacht operations, there are some specific requests and situations that need immediate attention or remediation. Having that tech support there at the end of the phone is something that may not be possible with Starlink alone.”
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