NORWAY: New system serves offshore communications needs

While offshore, company employees require access to a mixture of voice, fax, telex, and data communications, Oslo-based Telenor says its new Inmarsat Fleet F77 satellite service meets oil and gas needs in these areas.

While offshore, company employees require access to a mixture of voice, fax, telex, and data communications, Oslo-based Telenor says its new Inmarsat Fleet F77 satellite service meets oil and gas needs in these areas.

Fleet F77 is targeted for ocean-going vessels and offers the flexibility of mobile packet data service (MPDS), which allows maritime customers to pay only for data transmitted and received, instead of paying for connection time to the satellite. Telenor said Fleet F77's packet data technology enables users to share satellite resources, increasing efficiency and reducing costs.

"It means that onboard an oil tanker or supply vessel, they can have an email and Internet connection 24 hours online, only paying while they are connected," said Pal Røsjø , Telenor's regional sales manager for Latin America, adding this plan has been well received in the Brazilian market.

The need for higher bandwidth to support data communication has been one of the drivers for the new integrated services digital network (ISDN) and MPDS that Telenor launched earlier this year for vessels.

"This is something that the market has been waiting for," Røsjø said. "The same facilities that they have in their office onshore, they can now have at sea."

To provide services globally, Telenor said, the company has opened up regional offices, including an office in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

"This local office means a more local focus," Røsjø said about the new regional office in Rio, which opened to meet the needs of the expanding Brazilian market.

Røsjø said the type of service operators use often depends on the location of the operations. Close to shore, the fields may feature subsea cables and fixed connections or fixed satellites or Inmarsat service, with fields further away from shore and supply vessels invariably relying on Inmarsat.

"Oil and gas is one of our main vertical markets for satellite services," Røsjø said.

Fleet F77 meets the International Maritime Organization's criteria for global maritime distress and safety system by providing pre-emption and voice prioritization for distress, urgency, safety, and routine communications, the company said. Telenor said its Fleet F77 service provides efficient and reliable access to weather reports, port scheduling, fleet management and monitoring, and emergency services.

Fleet F77 is the first Fleet family of maritime data communication services to offer voice communications, ISDN, and packet data technology. Users can choose full ISDN channel capability of 64 kbps for high-speed data transfers or the flexibility of MPDS with a shared 64 kbps channel for bursty applications like Web browsing and email. The system features spot and global beam coverage for voice, ISDN, and MPDS.

Telenor is also promoting its remote videoconferencing capabilities, which Røsjø said is gaining interest despite the sometimes conservative nature of the industry.

"This is the first time they can really integrate everything," he said. "You have a range of possibilities today that you really didn't have before."

Inmarsat Fleet F77 runs about $25,000 for installation and equipment, with service billed per use based on the type of service used. Fleet F77 uses equipment smaller than the current Inmarsat-B antenna. Telenor is also offering the Inmarsat Mini-C service, which features a small antenna installed on vehicles and vessels. These units can deliver data reports or messaging and can be used for security and logistical purposes, Røsjø said, noting that hundreds of units have been ordered for installation in Venezuela for Pdvsa.

Telenor also launched new company Marlink in March to provide global mobile satellite communication services for the maritime sector. Marlink will supply mobile satellite airtime, providing communication services from a number of suppliers, including Telenor. Marlink brings together the retail arm of Telenor Satellite Services and SAIT Communications, which Telenor acquired in 2001. Telenor holds 15% of Inmarsat Ventures.

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