For market players operating throughout the marine environment, access to reliable Wi-Fi broadband data is becoming increasingly important. Andrew Dann talks to Milano Teleport CEO, Umberto Gallo about the growing requirement for broadband data in remote locations throughout the world’s oceans

On 6th August 1991 Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web became publically available. It was the culmination of a series of technical developments that had begun decades before and more specifically, the result of research carried out by Berners-Lee at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) during the 1980s to find a way for physicists to share data across the globe without the need to each use the safe software and hardware.

At its core his resulting 1989 paper ‘A large hypertext database with typed links’ was a study in efficient communication and today the development of networks that allow the rapid transfer of information has redefined what is commercially possible. Increasingly the internet continues to change the way individuals and organisations work, socialise, create and share information and organise the flow of people, ideas and commodities around the world.

Today the demand for high-speed internet connectivity extends to both onshore and offshore clients in remote locations around the world. Milano Teleport represents a leading Italian satellite telecommunication services in C, Ku and Ka band, with three business lines comprised of enterprise networks, maritime very small aperture terminal (VSAT) and broadcasting. As the largest independent teleport in Italy, the company has established a keen understanding of the needs of the market and a trusted reputation as a leading solutions provider.

“Within the maritime sector Milano Teleport operates a trademark, which is a brand called Iseaglobal. This is not another company, rather it is a brand that identifies our internet service to offshore vessels, whereas Milano Teleport is the brand that supplies internet connections to land based applications. Iseaglobal provides internet connectivity to vessels through VSAT, which is a high-speed connection through a satellite. We only use VSAT satellite connectivity, while some other companies continue to use the old satellite system, which produces speeds of around 32-432 kb/s whereas VSAT provides anything up to 100 megabits of connectivity to ships, making an effective form of connection service,” explains CEO, Umberto Gallo.

“We started to develop high-speed connectivity through VSAT technology at a reasonable price around ten years ago, using a technology platform called iDirect. This is an American company that develops modems, hubs and other technologies. Milano Teleport purchased its first iDirect hub during 2005 and then began providing maritime services in 2006. In the beginning we were a very small company, providing services to a shipowner with a fleet of around five merchant vessels. After this we continued to grow in Italy and beyond and we are today a market leader,” he continues. “Our success is based on the fact that we are a smaller company that can provide services that larger companies are typically unable to, because they are focused on providing standardised solutions. We provide a custom solution to meet each of our client’s requirements.”

The innovation of internet communication using VSAT technology has helped to bring the benefits of broadband communication to users operating within the offshore and marine environments and brought with it exciting opportunities for increasingly enhanced and efficient business solutions. Within the barge, bulk, cargo, merchant, offshore, rig, Ro-Ro and tanker sectors for example, advanced communication solutions via VSAT allow crew and passengers to connect to the internet through real-time transmissions allowing for applications such as telephone calls and video streaming. During navigation, satellite communication allows safety and vessel traceability, harbour operations, precision navigation, observation of currents, weather forecasting and fleet status. The same advantages exist within the cruise and yachting markets where telephone calls can be made anywhere at sea with worldwide coverage and services such as voice communication in fax and standard telephone, television, video on demand (VOD), global system for mobile communications (GSM) support and video conference are also available.

Maritime satellite communications are also increasingly important to marine operators active within the offshore oil and gas sector, where satellite technology allows operatives to control vital operations in remote locations. This applies to communications between onshore and offshore teams and crew, as well as offshore drilling and production platforms, drill ships, exploration, survey and service support vessels. End-to-end private network and VPN solutions via satellite enable secure operations management and assure timely delivery of data in the most remote locations. Furthermore satellite networks support real-time data exchange for exploration, inspection, repair, salvage and surveillance operations.

With such a diverse base of industry applications, the growth in demand for offshore and maritime satellite communications is a trend that shows no sign of slowing down over the coming years. According to analysis collected by the leading consultancy firm Euroconsult, the value of the global maritime satellite communications market is set to double over the next decade, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of six per cent in telecommunications terminals and eight per cent in revenue over ten years. While this increased requirement of high-speed connectivity is largely universal across the maritime market, in many areas, it is the cruise and leisure industry that is creating the largest demand. “Within the leisure and cruise markets the end user requires great levels of bandwidth. Clients onboard a cruise ship for example, expect the same level of internet connectivity as they would experience at home,” Umberto agrees. “Alternatively users on merchant vessels are typically more used to being onboard on s ip for months at a time without the use of a high-speed internet connection. Merchant vessel owners also tend to be more focused on the costs as well, which is another factor to consider.”

In its 2015 report, Euroconsult revealed that despite an unfavourable economic environment brought about through over supply in merchant capacity and falling oil prices, the maritime satellite communications market had maintained strong growth over the proceeding 12 months. A combined effect of both the rapidly increasing communications requirements of marine vessels and aggressive marketing initiatives on the part of service providers, allowed the maritime VSAT market to grow by 15 per cent in telecommunications terminals and nine per cent in revenues between 2014 and 2015. As a result, the global maritime satellite communications market has grown to include an unprecedented level of 368,000 terminals, $816 million in revenue at the satellite operator level and close to $1.6 billion in revenue at the service provider level. Furthermore a total of 7Gbps of C- and Ku-band capacity was utilised for maritime VSAT business, compared to less than 2Gbps during 2010. “The findings of Euroconsult certainly apply for 2016 throughout the wider industry, however over the past five years Milano Teleport has seen an yearly increase in demand of around 30 per cent. This includes a growth in demand from existing customers as well as from new clients,” Umberto says. “Throughout the wider industry, it is harder to predict if this growth is driven by new or existing clients, however from our perspective the increase in demand from both new and existing clients is around 50 per cent each.”

As the availability of high-speed internet connectivity continues to become more pressing in increasingly remote locations around the world, companies like Milano Teleport will continue to work with satellite operators and fellow teleports globally to ensure that clients receive fast and reliable internet connections. With no sign in demand decreasing and an increase in market players, maritime internet connectivity is set to become stronger than ever over the coming years. “We are currently looking to create alliances with other teleports globally, because we operate in a global market. It makes no sense to talk about an Italian, Spanish or English business in a global economy, when teleports provide a service that must extend from India to the Caribbean. However today clients are looking for services in the Antarctic or Australia, which are very far from where we are based and we cannot see the required satellites from Milan as they are on the other side of the planet. So we are creating alliances with tel ports in Asia and in the US to create a global network that can leverage the strengths of teleports around the world,” Umberto concludes. “I expect that growth in demand will continue at a similar rate as we see today, while the average price per megabit will decrease as a result in an increase in satellites and market competition. This will ultimately be better for the end user.”

Umberto Gallo

Umberto Gallo