Editor-In-Chief of Superyacht Technology News, Jack Robinson, met with Peter Broadhurst, the Senior Vice President of Safety and Security, Yacht & Passenger for Inmarsat. They met at the Palma boat show 2019 where they discussed Fleet Media, Fleet Broadband and LEO satellites.
Editor in a chief note: I have been on a mission to explore a major area in the superyacht sector MEDIA CONTENT.
Q: Superyacht Technology News received a question from ETO’S who asked, what is Fleet Media and is it legal for marine use? What exactly is that and how do you provide content for it?
PB: Fleet Media provides maritime entertainment anytime, anywhere for crews across the world’s oceans. This on-demand video experience brings the latest movies, TV, sports, and news to yachts at sea from some of the best-known names in the industry, including MGM, Warner Brothers, Miramax, Sony Pictures, HBO, NBC Universal, and Sky.
We get these from a company called Swank who also provide to airlines, so the films and news content are available just after it has been released to the cinema. You subscribe to Fleet Media and you get a range of films, a Sky Newsreel, with daily and weekly news, and a Sky Sports reel with international sports updates.
You are updated of what is going on constantly with news and sports, which is pushed over the Inmarsat network to vessel. You can use your tablet with an app or mobile phone or computer to view it. it can be paused if you need to leave it for some time so that you can return to the movie exactly where you left it.
The service allows you to select from up to 150 pre-defined movies. Each month the available films are refreshed, you can see the catalogue of movies available at any one time which includes some classics on there and then brand new releases too. If the film is in multiple languages or has subtitles you can also select that.
Q: Is Fleet Media content legal?
PB: Fleet Media is 100% legal. There are other highly questionable content providers that can’t provide a valid content license. The reality is that with Fleet Media there is encryption in the key to each film and it is de-encrypted on the server and is fully authenticated. You are allowed to watch the first few seconds of the film and then if the key does not come through the movie stops. This is a fail-safe to ensure the content is fully authenticated
Q: What are the limitations of Fleet Media?
d to get a feel for it and decide if this is the right service for you and your yacht.
PB: Fleet Media was conceived to provide entertainment to commercial shipping to avoid pirated content from crew and illegal content in some countries. We have found that as soon as you say ‘Fleet Media have films’, people want to choose anything. This is not an on-demand service. You can’t choose your own selection of movies, the content is predefined in the catalogue that month, this is designed in collaboration with the major studios and the major new releases regarding what content they have and what they will push down.
Another thing to bear in mind is that the sports shows are general sports that are topical to that time and generic news on a global basis.
Q: Pricing is a question that gets highlighted to Superyacht Technology News a lot, everyone wants faster connectivity for a better price. How are the costings justified and how do you cope with the demand?
PB: At the lower end of data throughput over the Inmarsat maritime network is FleetBroadband and Fleet One. This is our flagship service which provides dependable, seamless voice and broadband data coverage across all the world’s oceans, through a compact antenna. The service is delivered globally via the I-4 satellite and ground network, which maintains over 99.9 per cent network availability.
All Inmarsat Safety services are free, these include 505 calls, distress calling, medical assistance navigational reporting, meteorological reporting are all free. These are all operated by Inmarsat which we offer as part of our service.
If you look at what is happening in the fleet broadband world, the price per megabit is dropping drastically. The more you use the price comes down.
The reliability of the L-band service means that it can provide unlimited back-up to our high-speed Fleet Xpress service, ensuring seamless global mobility.
Fleet Xpress provides bespoke packages which are right specifically for yachting industry as you can pause your subscription for up to 6 months which works really well in the yachting world. You can also upgrade your bandwidth on demand, downgrade too at no cost, with no early termination fees. All of this is the flexibility that we believe is required in the yachting industry.
If you compare our pricing with the traditional VSAT pricing, we are very competitive.
When you are choosing your provider though, do consider more than just the price. Inmarsat has a secure network, it is always going to be there plus we include FleetBroadband unlimited as a backup. You pay one price and if there was ever an issue with your VSAT antenna you can use the FleetBroadband. So, you will never get bill shock like you would with many other suppliers. Consider carefully what you are actually getting for your money.
Q: Can Inmarsat provide hardware?
PB: Inmarsat can provide hardware for their services, it is also possible to lease items, but generally, in the superyacht market, people tend to purchase their own antennae. Inmarsat is not a manufacturer, we type approve equipment from our value-added manufacturers so you can purchase directly from their distribution channel should you wish.
Q: Can you talk to us about rain fade issues with KA?
It is basic physics, as you increase the frequency the attenuation of rain increases. L-Band is impacted by rain, as is Ku band and Inmarsat has run networks at 99+% for 40 years, C Band is affected by rain and all our telemetry to our satellites is run over C band, for 40 years Inmarsat has been running networks successfully and we ensure the end to end service is met. Look at a map of the world and look at where you have the rain and you have to ensure that you have the power levels and the adaptive code modulation to ensure that the service will always be there.
So, we have designed a network to be resilient and have great availability so that we are the only satellite operator to have dual links to the satellite from two ground stations so we can move traffic from one link if there are any problems with heavy rain fade to the other without any loss of data. This is a completely unique network, we have built redundancy into the system which is out of this world. For the superyacht industry, it is not acceptable for your service to be unreliable. We provide to the aviation, government, military, and maritime industries and the demand on those has to be incredible and has to work unquestionably.
So, rain fade is a real thing, but we now have 6000 ships operating on FleetXpress and we are adding 220 per month. We know how to manage it, we provide the service to it, if Ka fails because of Rain Fade we fall over to FleetBroadband and the service is unaffected.
We can accommodate the capabilities of mother nature.
Q: What are Inmarsat’s plans for the future? Will you work with the yachts directly or use partners and distribution networks?
PB: Inmarsat provides the technology but isn’t meeting all of the customer demands. Partnerships, as we have with E3, add that value, they are closer to the customer. There isn’t one yacht out here that is the same, so we train all our partners’ staff on our services. The first line of contact is always with the partner and then if there is anything that they can not answer they lean on us and we support them. Closer to customer needs on that level.
We will always in the market continue to work with the likes of partners like E3, they are closer to the customer’s needs on that level than we can be, so definitely our distribution model will not change.
Superyacht sector is demanding and prepared to pay the price but they require excellent service.
Q: We know that the technology is not ready but I am interested to hear your view on the effect of LEO’s on future networks and pricing.
PB: My thoughts on the latest, Irridium’s LEO program, is I applaud what they have done launching $4bn assets of 70+ satellites into space to put a LEO constellation in place. However, if I was spending that kind of money I wouldn’t have done a kind of ‘me-too’ product, because it is effectively just the same as what Inmarsat does at LBand. If you look at the market today, our L Band customers are moving to higher-end products such as FleetXpress and other VSAT services. So, I think the only way that they can displace Inmarsat is to compete on price. So, I think for the end user that could be good, but I don’t think it will affect us greatly, as I don’t think them constantly dropping the price is a sustainable business model.
The other LEO services that are coming along, like the OneWeb’s and all those are being put up to create a global high-speed internet service for the rest of the world. There was a company called 03B (Other Three Billion) they tried it and failed because they realised that the other three billion globally who do not have internet access, can’t actually afford it. The new companies that are trying to do the same will need to do something better about the price point, and to get the price point you need scale, and to scale; it’s incredibly hard, in a satellite.
Inmarsat has to have a license in every country that we operate in, to land traffic and take traffic. Now where the threat of terrorism and cyber security is so strong, a lot of countries are restricting access unless you have a ground station in that country. I am amazed at the investment in LEO constellations but question the validity of the business model as to whether those who are investing can get their return.
Q: The changing perception of Inmarsat. Who is the new Inmarsat? What do you want to inform technical superyacht crew of?
PB: This year is our 40th anniversary, so we’ve come a long way in our journey We are a very big organisation, which means that we are not necessarily the fastest but we do a huge amount of research about what we are going to do and when we are going to do it. We plan for 10-15 years ahead, if we launch a satellite now we need to be sure that we have the business for it in the future because otherwise, we have wasted our time. We have 3 satellites on the build currently which will take us into 2040. We are positioning ourselves on our core DNA, with safety service at the heart of Inmarsat. We see digitalisation as a real driver now and so we are working on our own network and with others in the industry to ensure that we meet the requirements of the end user, especially with 5G.
Inmarsat is a leader in global mobile satellite communications. Thousands of vessels rely on our unrivaled end-to-end service availability and coverage for operational communications and safety services.
We believe that as a customer you should never have to see the technology behind it, all the infrastructure that Inmarsat manage the customer doesn’t want to see. The technology of communication is all about the user experience, if you pick up the phone you want a dial tone, wherever you are.
The future needs to be a shared global communications network, which for the end user it just works.
SVP Safety and Security, Yacht & Passenger
Tel: 020 7728 1743
Mobile: 07764 467678
Email: Peter Broadhurst Peter.Broadhurst@inmarsat.com