Station Satcom is India’s leading satellite communications service provider offering a variety of remote communications solutions for offices and operations across the world. Their solutions range from internet management systems to IoT with which they aim to connect the unconnected. They offer full-service communications solutions to vessels and offshore operations, including connectivity, hardware, support and software.

We a FrontM are delighted to announce our partnership with Station Satcom who will be offering our collaboration tools to their customers.

Assad Khan, VP Maritime – Station Satcom and a satellite communications specialist talks more the company, their “customer-first” approach and how FrontM can help them solve real problems in the maritime market.

Tell us about your background and role at Station Satcom
I’ve been in the satellite industry for the past 15 years and last year in August met Anshul Khanna, the founder of Station Satcom, at an exhibition and that’s how the conversation started. A couple of months later I joined the team and am currently based in Rotterdam where my role is to grow the European business. Station Satcom is currently dominant in Asia and we would like to replicate the same thing in Europe, Africa and later on in the US as well. I’m going to be driving the maritime business from Europe for the company by establishing relationships with VSAT suppliers and getting better commitments from global telecommunication players based here. We’re focusing on being Tier 1 suppliers, not just resellers.

What defines the vision and mission for the company?
We want to become the one stop shop. The traditional suppliers are mainly providing only one solution like either satellite solutions or email solutions but we have the vision that we will become the one stop shop – so not only for satellite but for all your hardware and software related requirements to be delivered from one single source.

How have you seen the maritime industry progress over the years?
In the beginning due to regulations the industry was very slow in adoption. But there has been a shift to “always-on connectivity”. For some this means a move to VSAT, but with advanced smart box technology we can now enable always-on connectivity even on FleetBroadband.

Alibaba and Amazon’s involvement in the industry is driving technology to the next level. They are actually forcing maritime companies to think ahead and not the traditional way – and one thing we see them doing is adopting VSAT connectivity or higher package FleetBroadband.

“Startups are a great addition in the maritime market because they are coming up with innovation in the maritime industry. They are thinking outside the box which was actually missing in the maritime industry. Startups are looking for a solution in a different way”

What are the key trends of challenges in satellite communication and maritime market?
We see massive uptake in data usage on a month by month basis. We even have vessels that are doing 60-70 GBs per day. Two years ago, that was the monthly rate.

Operations are moving towards the Office 365 environment so it’s more like a cloud-based environment. Because of this integration they can access different kinds of tools – for example database sharing or file sharing between vessel and office. Data is not only limited to chatting anymore.

With the internet improving on vessels, crew who would earlier spend around $60 per month per crew on 4G cards or for mobile phones are now spending it on the data on board on the vessel.

What are the challenges faced by the industry?
Companies are now dropping prices like crazy. Customers are spoilt for choice and are more aware of what is happening in the market now; they are benchmarking prices and selling value is not always easy as it involves multiple departments within a company. We provide value-adds like IT support but face competition from companies just selling the boxes, so we have to justify our pricing, especially in the maritime market. The offshore market is different as they want bundled solutions from one provider rather than engaging with different suppliers and are not always price-driven.

Even for collaboration and communication, price is the biggest issue – we see migrations from Fleet Broadband to VSAT but they are not looking at the additional benefits from VSAT, they just want always on connectivity. This new crew is the “social media” generation” and they are demanding internet onboard. Companies become more considerate towards to crew demands when the cost of connectivity is not so high which is why they’re now considering upgrading. When moving to always on connectivity the monthly charges can be around the same level but the biggest cost is upgrading to new systems.

What is the future of satellite communications?
The user experience will be the same as we see on the shore side – whenever you’re ordering an internet connection at home it doesn’t matter which box you’re receiving, you’re paying a fixed fee and are just going to expect connectivity to be there. I’m expecting something similar, maybe later the supplier will supply the installation free of charge as we see in our homes. I also think the newer vessels will have a lot of sensors and the next step could be autonomous vessels.

What encouraged you to partner with FrontM to offer solutions to your customers?
We already have a handful of partners, and prefer partners who can deliver on a broader scope than just one solution. FrontM offers a full platform for the support side and not just voice. FrontM is solving a problem we are having – customers no longer need to take multiple actions and enter codes to get a connection. They can use the app, download the number and know that it’s going to ring instead of putting in all the codes.

FrontM is making it easier for our customers to use and make calls. After voice calling, the chatting function and support side function you are in the process of building excites us.

I’m looking forward to this being a good partnership and in the future we can collaborate on more levels than just voice.

What the some of your customer problems we are solving?
You are solving the shore to ship connectivity challenge. Nowadays, users are used to applications where they simply type on their phones, like the chat feature, and now we have those applications available for the maritime industry. Shore to ship calling is currently very expensive and one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced.

How important is it for you to have a good communication platform?
It’s most important for customer businesses. For example, when the ship attendant is calling the vessel. What we are trying to do is to simplify all the actions a user performs to make that call. That is also a load off our support department because whenever there are more actions there will be more pressure on them, so we need solutions which are easy to handle and straightforward to use. I believe we can extend that to support teams in India and Singapore for troubleshooting purposes.

What advice would you like to offer to service providers while selecting a collaboration tool?
Our motto is always keep your customers first. If something is urgent and needs to be arranged which is related to the customer, prioritize it. In terms of the future of this industry, I think we are moving towards a managed service environment and exploring integrations with payment platforms so we can directly sell to crew members rather shipping companies.

Lisa Moore, VP Commercial Product Management said:

“The FrontM – Station Satcom partnership is a fantastic opportunity and technical combination that will help maritime companies to bring their ship to shore teams closer together in real time. Station Satcoms understanding of communication networks and IoT product interactions coupled with their customer first approach is uniquely complementary to how the FrontM team works. We believe our collaboration will help deliver tangible operational outcomes to the end client community whilst helping to drive digital transformation”.

Station Satcoms customers will benefit from communication cost saving and increased productivity using FrontM collaboration tools. To make customer experience with existing processes seamless, both our pre-paid and post-paid billing models are being roll out.

Shagun Sahni

Author Shagun Sahni

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