Inmarsat results highlight shift from L-band to VSAT

The ongoing migration of the global merchant fleet into higher bandwidth communications services has been highlighted by the release of satellite operator Inmarsat’s financial results for the first half of 2019, with the company reporting a double digit percentage rise in Fleet Xpress revenue alongside a double digit fall in earnings derived from FleetBroadband.

Revenues from the company’s VSAT products were up 17% for the half year to $45.5 million, including an increase of 11% in Q2 2019. FleetBroadband revenues fell by 18.7% in the six month period to $65.3 million, including a decline of 18.6% in Q2 2019.

At the end of the half Inmarsat had 7,068 installed VSAT vessels, 6,812 of which were on Fleet Xpress (FX) as it continues the migration programme from its Ku-band XpressLink product to the Ka-band flagship service. Inmarsat says that programme remains on track for completion by the end of 2019, with the approximately 250 vessels remaining on XpressLink expected to be moved across in the coming months.

Of the total 648 vessels installed with FX during Q2, some 37% were deployed by Inmarsat’s distribution partners. The majority of the newly installed vessels for the quarter were migrated from FleetBroadband, the company says, with just under 30% being completely new customers.

An annual net FleetBroadband decline of 2,833 vessels was reported, of which approximately 1,510 were migrations to FX and other VSAT products. However, despite the ongoing move away from the L-band service, FleetBroadband still had an installed base of well over 30,000 ships at the half-year point for 2019 – more than four times the number of VSAT vessels served by Inmarsat – indicating that the move to higher bandwidth in maritime is still far from over.