[Via Satellite 09-24-2015] Telenor Satellite Broadcasting (TSB) CEO Morten Tengs expects that over the next three to four years the maritime market will become as important to the operator as broadcasting. Tengs told Via Satellite that maritime is a “tremendous” growth opportunity for the company and that over the next few years it will only increase in importance. “In terms of the types of customers in maritime, we are looking mainly at the merchant shipping part of it. But, if you talk about maritime in terms of the number of megabits, there are certain segments such as cruises and ferries that could take tens and tens of megabits per vessel. It is difficult to say what will be the biggest segment per vessel. That might be a passenger segment or oil and gas when that picks up again. But, in terms of hardware and numbers of vessels, it will be normal merchant shipping,” he said.
Along with aero, a number of satellite operators see maritime as one of the most potentially lucrative sectors for the industry over the next few years. While it is a not a new sector for satellites, with shipping companies embracing the benefits of connectivity, it is certainly set to heat up. However, will there be enough business for all the players?
“I think there will be a tremendous growth in the demand for capacity, both in terms of business applications and crew welfare. Over time, I think we will see the same growth patterns which we have seen in the domestic mobile industry. I think over the next five years, there will be over-supply,” Tengs said. “So, to succeed, you need to be good at what you are doing. You need to have a good product, very experienced staff and provide the customer a good customer experience. I am quite optimistic that we will succeed.”
Telenor has had a busy few months with the recent launch of its Thor 7 satellite. The satellite is split between broadcasting and maritime, and the Ka-band high throughput payload is the company’s first move in the High Throughput Satellite (HTS) space.
“I would say following launch, we are at expectations. The broadcasting payload is ready for service. The small steerable beam for Antartica, that is in service. On the Ka-band HTS payload, that is in the test phase. A long list of major customers have accepted to be beta test customers. When we start commercial services in the fourth quarter, we will start to build things up and start to commission services. The test phase will last six to eight weeks. There will be a commercial launch after that, and we will put customers on the payload,” he said.
With the new satellite launched and ready to go, it could be a while until Telenor launches its next satellite. Tengs admits Telenor isn’t even in the planning phase for its next satellite and that it is 100 percent focused on filling the capacity on Thor 7.
“We can do the planning in a short space of time if we need too. A lot will depend on the uptake of capacity on Thor 7. In terms of how much capacity is actually sold in Thor 7, we are in discussions with potential customers, and if those deals come off, that would mean a substantial amount of capacity,” he said.
Tengs is also unfazed by the hype surrounding small satellite initiatives for new telecommunications services. He does not expect widespread success here.
“There are a number of challenges, and I think many of these initiatives will fail due to both financial reasons, as well as regulatory and technical reasons. Some will succeed and no doubt launch satellites,” he said. “It remains to be seen what the megabit price will be. I am not convinced that the megabit price will be at a level where it is a big threat. Those initiatives could actually be an advantage to the traditional satellite industry, because they will certainly drive the prices of launches and satellites down. We are following this closely. We will keep a close eye on what is happening and plan accordingly.”
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