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Inmarsat prepares for rapid digitalisation of superyacht sector

As the data flowing between yacht and shore increases, Inmarsat is ensuring the capacity and capability to facilitate it…

Connectivity and the transfer of data between a superyacht and shore has had a significant impact on guest experience, operations, yacht management efficiency and crew welfare. In fact, being well connected is now assumed to be the norm on board and what’s more important in the satellite communications sector is digitalisation and what can be done with that connectivity.

“We’re moving into a digital age where there’s a proliferation of digital applications that can add true value,” explains Peter Broadhurst, Senior Vice President of Safety and Regulatory at Inmarsat (pictured). “In the superyacht industry, this ranges from the digitalising of documents for operational efficiency, to the proactive monitoring and servicing of engines.”

As such, Inmarsat is focused more on the client’s needs and how to support the applications they need. “It's not just a case of throwing bandwidth at a vessel, it's about providing a platform that is agile and flexible enough to give the client what they want,” adds Broadhurst. “Each superyacht client has different requirements and perceptions of what adds value, so we aimed to build a core network that can be tailored to ensure the relevant applications are always available when they’re needed.”

With its Fleet Xpress platform now installed on approximately 13,000 vessels, Inmarsat is at the forefront of facilitating the expansion of digitalisation in the maritime sector. Firstly, Fleet Xpress has built-in flexibility from a network perspective, incorporating two separate networks for the crew and the vessel’s operations, and a third can be added for the owner or charterer. These can then be prioritised according to demands, given different layers of security, and invoiced separately, so that if one network is not in use, the yacht doesn’t have to pay for it. 

With the increasing emergence of digital applications to support superyacht safety and security, operational efficiencies and guest comfort, Fleet Xpress has also been built to fulfil the requirements around the applications that add value. Fleet Xpress is a combination of both Inmarsat’s Ka-band and L-band satellite networks, and Inmarsat is continuously investing in launching new satellites to add capacity in the necessary areas.

The recently announced ORCHESTRA network encapsulates what Inmarsat believes the future of connectivity will look like. “ORCHESTRA will bring together Inmarsat’s existing GEO and LEO satellites with a 5G network in a fully integrated platform,” says Broadhurst. “We are developing our own 5G network in hotspots around the world so that we can offer a managed service and have control over the minimum throughput.”

As Inmarsat foresees an increase in machine-to-machine applications that don’t necessarily require high bandwidth but do require low latency, there will also be a demand for more LEO satellites. While there’s been a recent proliferation of LEO satellite launches – and there's going to be thousands more launched over the next few years – the majority are designed to serve direct to home. As such, Inmarsat is building a LEO network tailored towards mobility to add more value to its existing customers and support the applications they need, which will also be part of ORCHESTRA.

“Essentially, our vision for ORCHESTRA is ubiquitous communication,” concludes Broadhurst. “The principle of the network will be bringing all these networks together to provide a more powerful solution that delivers connectivity in the most efficiently and cost-effectively.”

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Inmarsat prepares for rapid digitalisation of the superyacht sector

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