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Mobile Satellite Services In LATAM... The Opportunities + The Challenges
By J. Alberto Palacios, Chief Executive Officer, Globalsat Group


The decrease in growth and even contraction in activities related to oil & gas as well as mining are often referred to as the cause of negative effects on satellite services in Latin America (LATAM).

These activities, which traditionally operate in remote areas where terrestrial communications infrastructure is scarce or nonexistent, represent a significant demand for mobile satellite services (MSS) and fixed services (FSS). This lack of a communications structure has the potential to create new opportunities. While the day-to-day operations may be diminished and, therefore, human activity and need for higher bandwidth FSS may decrease, companies will not just abandon their infrastructure.

According to the CESLA, although contraction of GDP was negative in three countries of the region in 2016, such will be negative in only one country—Venezuela—in 2017. The IMF states that their own projection of negative growth (-0.5 percent) hides that most countries in the region continue to experience growth. The OECD also predicts 2017 will be good for several countries in Latin America. Consequently, much of the infrastructure can stay in "pause." This creates opportunities through demand for satellite surveillance, telemetry and remote command, allowing their owners to maintain control over the infrastructure and even operate some of that infrastructure without human interaction in the field.

The road to satellite controlled automation is facilitated by a growing supply and a maturity of solutions that are tailored to IoT / M2M through existing services, such as Inmarsat’s IDP and BGAN M2M, Iridium SBD and Globalstar Simplex, in addition to the usual VSAT-based solutions. The modern enterprise is mobile, and must be mobile even in the most remote and hostile environments:

The real-time connectivity to mobile resources provided by these platforms opens the door to a true revolution in process optimization, updating complete production structures to up-to-the-minute demand rather than month by month optimization. Permanent connectivity can, therefore, allow efficiency to increase almost up to the theoretical limit. To make this possible in practice, customers need a true service partner they can trust, not just a hardware provider. This requires a company with the experience to add value, customize and integrate technology. 

Additionally, customers require prompt and highly granular access to their services. Globalsat Group provides tools for self-management, through which customers can see their resources in real time and even turn terminals off remotely, at will, to control costs through specialized tools such as AirtimeSAT. This kind of service control is especially appealing in these times of increased corporate risk in the LATAM region.

Connectivity Can Provide Value + Savings
Permanent connectivity even in areas where terrestrial network coverage is available can be a challenge in Latin America. The rapid growth of mobile Internet users pushes the limits of mass use infrastructure. In example, there is a case in Brazil where Globalsat Group operates more than 500 mobile satellite broadband terminals for a company linked to the energy sector. That company does not want to rely solely on the quality of service and coverage of cellular companies—their business in these critical times is 24x7 mission critical.

Permanent and redundant connectivity allows that firm to monitor and communicate with their entire fleet, optimizing routes on the fly as conditions change across their infrastructure. This capability provides significant savings to their operations and increased service continuity for their customers and the country. Addressing such projects where a turnkey solution comprised of multiple terminals must be developed and operated reliably, all based on specific customer needs. To simply be a provider of satellite airtime is no longer enough for business success.

An agile and cohesive team connected to the operational and regulatory situation in each country can make the difference between growing steadily in an increasingly demanding market or maintaining a status quo that will reduce competitiveness and cause market loss.

A Flexible Organizational Structure To Adapt To Difficult Times
To increase efficiency and user satisfaction across a diverse market, the Globalsat Group affiliates operate as parts of a mesh network: customers in each country are directly served by a local team, and within each team there are experts in specific solutions.

When expertise that is available in another team is required, there is direct contact from team to team without going through the central organization. This allows for streamlined management and also gives all clients access to all experts in all areas of the operation, such as standard voice and data, IoT / M2M, software development and hardware, aviation and maritime satellite technology, streaming / media and even land mobile radio.

Frost & Sullivan, which recently granted the company the 2016 Latin America Satellite Company of the Year Award, has estimated that for success in Latin America, there are several key points: fulfilling unmet needs, anticipating scenarios, commercial best practices, financial performance, product price/performance, customer purchase experience and brand value are some of the areas where a satellite services company must maintain excellence in order to survive. 

According to Euroconsult, the future of the MSS industry will depend on how quickly suppliers are able to adapt to new market conditions. Globalsat Group believes those of us who are able to anticipate these conditions have the winning hand. This is an experience that the company wishes to share—because if other market players do well, a positive spiral will be generated for the entire satellite industry.

J. Alberto Palacios is the Chief Executive Officer of Globalsat Group, the first pan-American group to provide Mobile Satellite Services (MSS). Mr. Palacios is well known for his extensive experience in the industry with particular focus on emerging countries. Under his vision, the group he founded in 1999 has become the leading multinational MSS organization to serve the Latin American market, with an accelerated growth over the past years, offices in eight countries and distributors throughout the region. He is currently based in the Palm Beach area in Florida, where the group headquarters is located.