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Can VSAT, Smart Shipping Demand Revive the Hard-Hit Maritime Connectivity Market?

This article was first published in Via Satellite.

The past year will be known as a year of strife and great difficulty for the maritime satellite communication market, as a number of key applications have been greatly affected by the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.  In Valour Consultancy’s H1 2020 Maritime Connectivity report, we highlighted how the trade sanctions between the United States and the Republic of China badly affected world trade. The current and prolonged effects of COVID-19 have, and will continue to be much worse. However, the pandemic has also highlighted the need for technologies that will provide the “green shoots” of recovery in the digitalization and communications realm of commercial maritime.

Reflections on 2020

The L-band market is believed to have been quite resilient to the troubles of 2020, with estimated global revenues in 2020 assumed to have declined by $25 million from 2019, and the number of vessels using L-band technology decreasing by 2,680 in the same period. Inmarsat, the biggest maritime L-band provider, no longer discloses its financial figures since it was purchased. However, it’s FleetBroadband business is expected to have only slightly reduced from 2019.

Iridium, like many companies, has only released its Third Quarter (Q3) 2020 financial results at this point. But Iridium’s commercial voice and data service (maritime forms part of this segmentation) revenues were down by $3 million for the first nine months of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. Furthermore, the majority of this drop is attributed to the aviation rather maritime operations, as stated in the financial report. Its broadband revenues were actually up $4 million, and Internet of Things (IoT) data revenues flat for the same first nine months of 2020 versus 2019.

Delving into the Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) market, Valour Consultancy estimates the retail market, the total value of airtime sold directly to the end user, dropped to $1 billion in 2020, a decline from $1.15 billion in 2019.

The passenger market, in particular sea cruises, has come to a complete standstill. The number of active VSAT connected passenger vessels have fallen from nearly 4,100 in 2019, to less than 700 in 2020. Although this is a dramatic market fall, the key question is what portion of service fees for satellite connectivity will redundant vessels have to pay — full, partial, or none?

The answer is yes and no.

From a wholesale perspective, large batches of capacity and bandwidth are agreed and contractual obligations for payment are scheduled years in advance. As such, even though demand for connectivity has reduced due to vessels being docked, service providers will nonetheless still need to pay for these services. The key questions are whether the end users will pay the service providers, or deferred? One could see how working in Inmarsat or Marlink’s accounts receivable team could be challenging.

Service providers offering customers flexible payment term contracts would have brought in only a  fraction of their 2019 revenues if customers are not contractually obliged to pay for redundant vessels. As we understand it, most merchant vendors will have to pay 80% of their monthly contracted ARPU if not in use. With passenger cruise vessels, it’s uncertain whether they will pay the full ARPU per vessel in their service level agreements. My guess is yes — but smart connectivity providers may opt to tie their customers down to longer contract terms if customers are unable to pay current bills.

Offshore energy has also been badly hit, and Valour Consultancy anticipates 2,500 vessels/assets were made redundant in 2020. However, companies in this application are much more astute at catering to this in their service level agreements and have clauses for reduced service payments during periods of downtime.

The challenge with articulating how revenues are affected within the industry depends on multiple factors, such as wholesale or retail provider of connectivity services. Our gut feeling is maritime wholesale satellite revenues were flat to slightly up in 2020, compared to 2019; however, service provider retail revenues (to the end user) were possibly down by between 10-15%.

Revenues generated from 2020 VSAT Ku- and C-band equipped vessel market are predicted to decline by 19% and 17% from 2019’s standings, respectively. With the number of active vessels using the Ku- and C-band systems are also anticipated to decline between minus 11% and 5% over the same period.

Interestingly, Inmarsat has reported an increase in its FX fleet and as such, we have noted an increase in Ka-band equipped vessels, standing around an estimated 10,000 ships by the end of 2020. The company no longer reports its financial results; however, Valour Consultancy believes the firm has increased its FX vessel count by 10% and reflected this in the global Ka-band commercial revenues, thought to be around $255 million by the end of 2020.

The Next 12 Months

In the long term, vessel numbers with VSAT connectivity are expected to increase to nearly 66,000 by the end of 2029, and we project to see maritime VSAT revenues return to the same levels as 2019. The take up of VSAT services for broadband connectivity, combined with a decline of L-band connected vessels, will still remain the primary driver of the market going forward. A notable milestone is retail VSAT and Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) maritime services surpassing $2 billion by the end of 2025.

A Bright Spot in Smart Shipping

Despite the downturn of maritime connectivity services in 2020, one technology segment within the market has grown and will continue growing for many years: maritime digital applications and smart shipping technologies.

There is a realization that maritime digital applications and smart shipping technologies have come to the forefront of the industry. With the restricted movement of crew, depressed freight rates due to limited demand, and closed facilities, monitoring and managing assets without human interaction is crucial. The largest penetration of smart shipping technologies is within the passenger and offshore energy markets. However, we actually see the biggest untapped potential within the merchant sector. Container vessels, tankers, and bulk carriers are all prime targets for these solutions. Valour Consultancy estimates smart shipping solutions sold to merchant market amounted to $139 million in 2019 and will almost quadruple by the end of the decade.

Valour Consultancy foresees the current pick up of the merchant market as a positive sign for smart shipping and maritime IoT services. With the operational headaches and inability to perform key functions at sea, shipping companies will likely invest heavily in remote monitoring, optimizations, and control.

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Reflections on 2020

The L-band market is believed to have been quite resilient to the troubles of 2020, with estimated global revenues in 2020 assumed to have declined by $25 million from 2019, and the number of vessels using L-band technology decreasing by 2,680 in the same period. Inmarsat, the biggest maritime L-band provider, no longer discloses its financial figures since it was purchased. However, it’s FleetBroadband business is expected to have only slightly reduced from 2019. Iridium, like many companies, has only released its Third Quarter (Q3) 2020 financial results at this point. But Iridium’s commercial voice and data service (maritime forms part of this segmentation) revenues were down by $3 million for the first nine months of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. Furthermore, the majority of this drop is attributed to the aviation rather maritime operations, as stated in the financial report. Its broadband revenues were actually up $4 million, and Internet of Things (IoT) data revenues flat for the same first nine months of 2020 versus 2019. Delving into the Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) market, Valour Consultancy estimates the retail market, the total value of airtime sold directly to the end user, dropped to $1 billion in 2020, a decline from $1.15 billion in 2019. The passenger market, in particular sea cruises, has come to a complete standstill. The number of active VSAT connected passenger vessels have fallen from nearly 4,100 in 2019, to less than 700 in 2020. Although this is a dramatic market fall, the key question is what portion of service fees for satellite connectivity will redundant vessels have to pay — full, partial, or none? The answer is yes and no. From a wholesale perspective, large batches of capacity and bandwidth are agreed and contractual obligations for payment are scheduled years in advance. As such, even though demand for connectivity has reduced due to vessels being docked, service providers will nonetheless still need to pay for these services. The key questions are whether the end users will pay the service providers, or deferred? One could see how working in Inmarsat or Marlink’s accounts receivable team could be challenging. Service providers offering customers flexible payment term contracts would have brought in only a  fraction of their 2019 revenues if customers are not contractually obliged to pay for redundant vessels. As we understand it, most merchant vendors will have to pay 80% of their monthly contracted ARPU if not in use. With passenger cruise vessels, it’s uncertain whether they will pay the full ARPU per vessel in their service level agreements. My guess is yes — but smart connectivity providers may opt to tie their customers down to longer contract terms if customers are unable to pay current bills. Offshore energy has also been badly hit, and Valour Consultancy anticipates 2,500 vessels/assets were made redundant in 2020. However, companies in this application are much more astute at catering to this in their service level agreements and have clauses for reduced service payments during periods of downtime. The challenge with articulating how revenues are affected within the industry depends on multiple factors, such as wholesale or retail provider of connectivity services. Our gut feeling is maritime wholesale satellite revenues were flat to slightly up in 2020, compared to 2019; however, service provider retail revenues (to the end user) were possibly down by between 10-15%. Revenues generated from 2020 VSAT Ku- and C-band equipped vessel market are predicted to decline by 19% and 17% from 2019’s standings, respectively. With the number of active vessels using the Ku- and C-band systems are also anticipated to decline between minus 11% and 5% over the same period. Interestingly, Inmarsat has reported an increase in its FX fleet and as such, we have noted an increase in Ka-band equipped vessels, standing around an estimated 10,000 ships by the end of 2020. The company no longer reports its financial results; however, Valour Consultancy believes the firm has increased its FX vessel count by 10% and reflected this in the global Ka-band commercial revenues, thought to be around $255 million by the end of 2020.

The Next 12 Months

In the long term, vessel numbers with VSAT connectivity are expected to increase to nearly 66,000 by the end of 2029, and we project to see maritime VSAT revenues return to the same levels as 2019. The take up of VSAT services for broadband connectivity, combined with a decline of L-band connected vessels, will still remain the primary driver of the market going forward. A notable milestone is retail VSAT and Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) maritime services surpassing $2 billion by the end of 2025.

A Bright Spot in Smart Shipping

Despite the downturn of maritime connectivity services in 2020, one technology segment within the market has grown and will continue growing for many years: maritime digital applications and smart shipping technologies. There is a realization that maritime digital applications and smart shipping technologies have come to the forefront of the industry. With the restricted movement of crew, depressed freight rates due to limited demand, and closed facilities, monitoring and managing assets without human interaction is crucial. The largest penetration of smart shipping technologies is within the passenger and offshore energy markets. However, we actually see the biggest untapped potential within the merchant sector. Container vessels, tankers, and bulk carriers are all prime targets for these solutions. Valour Consultancy estimates smart shipping solutions sold to merchant market amounted to $139 million in 2019 and will almost quadruple by the end of the decade. Valour Consultancy foresees the current pick up of the merchant market as a positive sign for smart shipping and maritime IoT services. With the operational headaches and inability to perform key functions at sea, shipping companies will likely invest heavily in remote monitoring, optimizations, and control. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Marlink Remains Largest Retail VSAT Service Provider in 2019

In Valour Consultancy’s latest maritime connectivity report, The Future of Maritime Connectivity – 2020 edition, Marlink Group remained the largest retail service provider for VSAT communication services in 2019. The global service provider increased its revenue market share from 23.1 per cent in 2018, to 23.9 per cent in 2019. 

Marlink has proactive approach to customer service ensuring all its clients and their vessels are functioning at an optimal performance. This has been a particularly poignant matter during the COVID-19 pandemic with large numbers of merchant seafarers stranded at sea away from their friends and families. In addition, the company’s history in the maritime market and strength across all the applications at the firm has also aided its mission of staying at the top of the VSAT retail market. Valour Consultancy estimates that Marlink had more than seven thousand vessels subscribed to its SeaLink VSAT service today. 

Valour Consultancy ranked Speedcast second in the retail VSAT market in 2019. Like Marlink, the company also increased its market share from 2018 primarily due to its acquisition of Globecomm. However, the firm has gone through some financial turmoil recently, filing for Chapter 11 in April 2020 and it will be interesting to see how it will perform in the next 12 months. 

Inmarsat continues to play a strong dual role in the market, providing wholesale MSS and VSAT satellite capacity to its value added resellers (service providers) and also serving some key customers directly. The firm, purchased by a private equity consortium in 2019, has done a good job of switching its large existing MSS customer base to its FX VSAT offerings whilst also getting its VARS to commit to fulfilling a number of vessels on its FX services. An example of this is demonstrated by Inmarsat’s strong relationship with Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), one of Japan’s largest shipping companies, who announced they plan to continue the roll out of FX across the remainder of all its owned and managed vessels  

Another notable maritime connectivity player has been KVH Industries. The firm has performed exceedingly well with its Agile Plans VSAT leasing service and reported shipping more than 10,000 VSAT antennas cumulatively earlier this year. Note this is across all mobility and land verticals. Nevertheless, its strength does reside within maritime and the firm has recently introduced its successful leasing plan to leisure market customers, opening up a significant number of vessels for new business. 

Unfortunately, Global Eagle has suffered somewhat over recent years and its market share dropped from 10 per cent in 2018 to less than 8 per cent in 2019. This is as a result of having lost a number of key passenger and offshore energy clients to other service providers in recent years. 

Valour Consultancy’s take on the retail VSAT maritime connectivity standings in 2019: 

Looking Forward 

According to the IMF in its June 2020 outlook update  – “Global growth is projected to decline by  –4.9 per cent in 2020, 1.9 percentage points below the April 2020 World Economic Outlook (WEO) forecast. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a more negative impact on activity in the first half of 2020 than anticipated, and the recovery is projected to be more gradual than previously forecast. In 2021 global growth is projected at 5.4 per cent. Overall, this would leave 2021 GDP some 6.5 percentage points lower than in the pre-COVID-19 projections of January 2020. The adverse impact on low-income households is particularly acute, imperiling the significant progress made in reducing extreme poverty in the world since the 1990s 

Valour Consultancy anticipates glass half full perspective. Yes, passenger and offshore energy markets have been decimated by the fear of the pandemic, travel restrictions and the unknown of what is nextNonetheless, other markets have remained less affected, if not up from 2019. The effect of having so many seafarers in the merchant market stranded at sea has been to increase crew welfare video, messaging and telephone communication usage over the last six months. Some of the super wealthy have also seconded themselves on their private superyachts for the period. In addition, the demand for overall food produce such as seafood has remained stable and the market is likely to remain steady over the year. There are many notable pain points in maritime satellite connectivity right now but also a few good ones. Our maritime connectivity report will be providing an October update on 2020 and new projections for 2021 onwards. For more information please click here 

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" hundred_percent_height="no" hundred_percent_height_scroll="no" hundred_percent_height_center_content="yes" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" status="published" publish_date="" class="" id="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" enable_mobile="no" parallax_speed="0.3" background_blend_mode="none" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" video_preview_image="" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" spacing="" center_content="no" link="" target="_self" min_height="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" hover_type="none" border_size="0" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" border_radius="" box_shadow="no" dimension_box_shadow="" box_shadow_blur="0" box_shadow_spread="0" box_shadow_color="" box_shadow_style="" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="" margin_bottom="" background_type="single" gradient_start_color="" gradient_end_color="" gradient_start_position="0" gradient_end_position="100" gradient_type="linear" radial_direction="center" linear_angle="180" background_color="" background_image="" background_image_id="" background_position="left top" background_repeat="no-repeat" background_blend_mode="none" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset="" filter_type="regular" filter_hue="0" filter_saturation="100" filter_brightness="100" filter_contrast="100" filter_invert="0" filter_sepia="0" filter_opacity="100" filter_blur="0" filter_hue_hover="0" filter_saturation_hover="100" filter_brightness_hover="100" filter_contrast_hover="100" filter_invert_hover="0" filter_sepia_hover="0" filter_opacity_hover="100" filter_blur_hover="0" last="no"][fusion_imageframe image_id="5634|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="none" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/v240mt_sixten-lundgren_for-web_w1860px-e1605709183233.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] In Valour Consultancy’s latest maritime connectivity report, The Future of Maritime Connectivity – 2020 edition, Marlink Group remained the largest retail service provider for VSAT communication services in 2019. The global service provider increased its revenue market share from 23.1 per cent in 2018, to 23.9 per cent in 2019.  Marlink has proactive approach to customer service ensuring all its clients and their vessels are functioning at an optimal performance. This has been a particularly poignant matter during the COVID-19 pandemic with large numbers of merchant seafarers stranded at sea away from their friends and families. In addition, the company’s history in the maritime market and strength across all the applications at the firm has also aided its mission of staying at the top of the VSAT retail market. Valour Consultancy estimates that Marlink had more than seven thousand vessels subscribed to its SeaLink VSAT service today.  Valour Consultancy ranked Speedcast second in the retail VSAT market in 2019. Like Marlink, the company also increased its market share from 2018 primarily due to its acquisition of Globecomm. However, the firm has gone through some financial turmoil recently, filing for Chapter 11 in April 2020 and it will be interesting to see how it will perform in the next 12 months.  Inmarsat continues to play a strong dual role in the market, providing wholesale MSS and VSAT satellite capacity to its value added resellers (service providers) and also serving some key customers directly. The firm, purchased by a private equity consortium in 2019, has done a good job of switching its large existing MSS customer base to its FX VSAT offerings whilst also getting its VARS to commit to fulfilling a number of vessels on its FX services. An example of this is demonstrated by Inmarsat’s strong relationship with Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), one of Japan’s largest shipping companies, who announced they plan to continue the roll out of FX across the remainder of all its owned and managed vessels   Another notable maritime connectivity player has been KVH Industries. The firm has performed exceedingly well with its Agile Plans VSAT leasing service and reported shipping more than 10,000 VSAT antennas cumulatively earlier this year. Note this is across all mobility and land verticals. Nevertheless, its strength does reside within maritime and the firm has recently introduced its successful leasing plan to leisure market customers, opening up a significant number of vessels for new business.  Unfortunately, Global Eagle has suffered somewhat over recent years and its market share dropped from 10 per cent in 2018 to less than 8 per cent in 2019. This is as a result of having lost a number of key passenger and offshore energy clients to other service providers in recent years.  Valour Consultancy’s take on the retail VSAT maritime connectivity standings in 2019:  Looking Forward  According to the IMF in its June 2020 outlook update  - “Global growth is projected to decline by  –4.9 per cent in 2020, 1.9 percentage points below the April 2020 World Economic Outlook (WEO) forecast. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a more negative impact on activity in the first half of 2020 than anticipated, and the recovery is projected to be more gradual than previously forecast. In 2021 global growth is projected at 5.4 per cent. Overall, this would leave 2021 GDP some 6.5 percentage points lower than in the pre-COVID-19 projections of January 2020. The adverse impact on low-income households is particularly acute, imperiling the significant progress made in reducing extreme poverty in the world since the 1990s  Valour Consultancy anticipates glass half full perspective. Yes, passenger and offshore energy markets have been decimated by the fear of the pandemic, travel restrictions and the unknown of what is nextNonetheless, other markets have remained less affected, if not up from 2019. The effect of having so many seafarers in the merchant market stranded at sea has been to increase crew welfare video, messaging and telephone communication usage over the last six months. Some of the super wealthy have also seconded themselves on their private superyachts for the period. In addition, the demand for overall food produce such as seafood has remained stable and the market is likely to remain steady over the year. There are many notable pain points in maritime satellite connectivity right now but also a few good ones. Our maritime connectivity report will be providing an October update on 2020 and new projections for 2021 onwards. For more information please click here  [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]