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Satellite technology to improve broadband access

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Oilfield Technology,

Satellite technology will satisfy oil and gas sector’s need for bandwidth

It is an unsettling time in the oil and gas sector. Oil prices remain low, and companies feeling the financial crush are looking for ways to improve production efficiencies while squeezing additional operating expenses from the process.

However, supervisors at headquarters still need to maintain constant contact with multiple off-shore sites as critical data needs to be shared from ship to shore in real time and in a secure manner. Crew members need broadband access for mobile and internet connectivity so that they can remain close to family members, take care of personal financial matters and access online entertainment while at sea. Despite the difficult industry conditions, crew health, safety and welfare remain paramount. In addition, oil companies are looking to leverage technology to help improve operations and generate greater efficiencies across their organisation. As a result, access to reliable affordable broadband has become even more important than ever.

Delivering reliable, secure broadband to your site today

Satellite-enabled broadband connectivity has served as a critical communications link for oil and gas companies for decades, delivering the bandwidth to support all of their operations – regardless of site location.

However, in the past ten years, the amount of bandwidth required by a typical energy rig has grown from 256 Kbps to at least 4 Mbps, according to Offcomm news, Winter 2015, and this number is expected to grow, as long as the connectivity produces improved operations and profitability.

As a result, oil companies are further challenging their service providers to deliver even higher performance and reliable connectivity in a way that enables the use of cost-efficient technology. In order to handle this growing demand, service providers will need to access robust satellite connectivity and a network that can deliver services anywhere around the globe.

Quite simply, the oil and gas business is global. Global oil producers operate on many continents. The right technology and connectivity will make managing their business easier than ever before. A communications footprint that reaches everywhere their operations are taking place is critical, and Intelsat’s combination of satellite and terrestrial infrastructure offers a simple, but robust and reliable global solution.

To support immediate demand, there is the Intelsat Global Broadband Mobility Network, currently the world’s only global Ku-band mobility offering. This network of 13 customised beams on 10 satellites is fully integrated with our existing satellite fleet and the IntelsatOne® terrestrial infrastructure, providing end-users with always-on, true broadband access. The addition of Intelsat 34, our newest satellite, adds mobility beams that will bring additional North Atlantic coverage for this network.

Along with delivering a global capability, Intelsat also understands the importance of securing this network in order to protect the critical data being exchanged. The satellite operator is responsible for ensuring the availability of the service – or making sure the path between the remote site and the teleport is always available. Intelsat divides our general security model into two parts: protecting the perimeter of the network and managing access to the network. Maintaining the integrity of the network carrying customers' transmissions is our primary concern, and Intelsat is the only satellite operator that has gone through independent auditing firm KPMG and completed a Service Organisation Control 3 (SOC3) review of security controls. The successful review process provides commercially accepted validation that our products are offered in an appropriately secure environment.

Developing infrastructure and services that evolve with sector needs

To serve the evolving demands of the oil and gas sector, service providers need even more capacity, more coverage, more performance and more flexibility. In a competitive environment where quick response and the right coverage can mark the difference between success and failure, networks must be scaled quickly to meet the demand and done so within the confines of budgetary constraints. Intelsat is innovating to bring a new solution to the oil and gas sector, building on its leadership with next generation technology reaching orbit soon that will deliver high performance and improved economics for the service provider and the oil and gas end user.

Within the next 18 months, the first two Intelsat EpicNG® satellites will be placed into service, providing a high throughput satellite (HTS), fully integrated overlay to our current wideband services. The high-performance platform is designed to exceed the requirements of leading service providers; enabling throughput in the range of 25-60 Gbps per satellite, about 10 times that of traditional satellites and triple that of next-generation Ka-band solutions. Intelsat 29e will provide HTS coverage over the Americas and the North Atlantic. Intelsat 33e, scheduled for launch later in 2016, will bring capacity over Africa, Asia and Europe. Launches in subsequent years will add additional HTS capacity to ensure bandwidth is available when and where it is needed.

Multiple HTS systems are being introduced, but it is important to remember there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. This is where the Intelsat EpicNG platform stands out. The Intelsat EpicNG® platform was designed with spot beams and frequency reuse technologies, concentrating the power of the individual transponders over a smaller area. This will allow for higher modulation schemes that dramatically increase the number of bits delivered per MHz, resulting in lower cost per bit for the service provider. The design of Intelsat EpicNG also allows the use of uniform open standard equipment, providing a range of hardware options – a direct contrast to systems that prescribe the hardware that must be used.

The technology at the heart of Intelsat EpicNG is the digital payload. Developed by Boeing, the digital payload allows for connectivity in any bandwidth increment and from any beam to any beam. For customers integrating HTS capacity into their operations, this means uplinks and downlinks can be connected regardless of location within the footprint. The combination of these capabilities provides the coverage of a large hemi-style beam with the power of high-performance Ku-band. This eliminates the need for a network to have multiple hubs and allows customers to configure their network topology to leverage existing ground hardware and operate using multiple spectrum bands. For example, a service provider with a successful C-band business can integrate high-powered Ku-band spot beams from the existing C-band hub into the network to maintain promised service quality for customers operating in areas of high demand.

Boeing developed the digital payload initially for use in the U.S. Department of Defense WGS satellites and is also manufacturing the Intelsat 29e satellite. The digital payload technology will be included exclusively on the Intelsat EpicNG satellite platform for several years.

Helping service providers adapt to shifting needs with IntelsatOne Flex

The benefits of HTS capacity and services are obvious, and once end users experience the higher performance and what it enables, they will not settle for less. This is why being the first provider to offer HTS capability via an existing network can have a real impact on a service provider’s ability to retain existing customers and attract new ones.

To accelerate the integration of Intelsat EpicNG into existing networks, Intelsat has unveiled the IntelsatOne Flex offering, a customizable wholesale Mbps service that aggregates Intelsat’s space segment, ground infrastructure and HTS platform into a unified ecosystem. This allows service providers to adjust their services to provide customers bandwidth when and where it is needed in order to respond to surges and shifts in geographic demand. IntelsatOne Flex also delivers a predictable cost structure for accessing services, meaning operating costs are aligned with revenue generation activities.

A major advantage of IntelsatOne Flex is that it offers enterprise-grade features such as committed information rates. This means the end user site experiences a consistent, high quality service. That, in turn, builds satisfied customers.

Along with delivering high performance and improved economics, Intelsat also is focused on making access to satellite capacity and services easier than ever. For example, in January 2015, Intelsat and Kymeta announced an agreement to design and produce innovative, flat, electronically steerable, Ku-band mTenna™ satellite antenna solutions that are optimised for the Intelsat EpicNG platform. The agreement is expected to lead to a range of antenna and terminal products, creating simple access to Intelsat solutions. The new antennas will be easier to install, require lower power and will have an improved form factor suitable for use in the oil and gas sector as well as a broader array of fixed and mobile applications.

Intelsat also recently announced an investment in the OneWeb low earth orbit satellite constellation. OneWeb’s service will be interoperable with the Intelsat EpicNG platform. This will add polar region coverage – an area of growing importance for the oil and gas sector.

What does the oil and gas sector’s future look like

The increase in throughput provided by HTS satellite capacity will enable applications to grow in scope and sophistication. This will enable more collaboration between headquarters and even other remote locations. We expect to see more safety and security broadband-based applications and also the need for increased access to training and medical care via telemedicine. HTS capacity will provide the needed bandwidth and reliability to satisfy the demand for enhanced services.

Intelsat’s global satellite fleet uses wide beams, Intelsat EpicNG satellites and terrestrial infrastructure to give the service providers and end users the confidence that they will have the bandwidth that meets today’s needs as well as the needs far into the future. And by focusing on the entire delivery ecosystem, Intelsat helps drive greater efficiency up and down the value chain. All of this means more efficient operations, improved return on investment and a better bottom line for companies in a difficult sector.

Sourced from : James Collett, Head of Mobility and Energy Services, Intelsat

Adapted by Louise Mulhall

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