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Analysis

Lower Price Point Drives Satellite Communication Applications

Wed, 01/25/2012 - 12:08

Satellite communications have always been an important solution for oil and gas companies whose employees depend on reliable communication solutions to ensure operational safety in remote locations. Satellite phones offer connectivity in places that traditional cellular network coverage cannot reach: remote onshore locations away from urban infrastructure, and offshore platforms where it is too technologically challenging to install traditional fixed analogue telephonic systems. Satellite communications companies have been collaborating with the oil and gas industry in order to provide them with communications solutions for a long time, but for many years the technology was costly, and so only adopted sparingly.

The price point for satellite communication devices has dropped in recent years due to competition and innovation. As a result, new opportunities to integrate satellite technology have been brought to market, and overall satellite technology uptake is on the rise in the oil and gas industry. By offering more affordable prices, it seems increasingly likely satellite communications technology will become commonplace in the Mexican oil and gas sector.

Globalstar, a satellite communication company, has been cooperating with Pemex since 2001. In the first seven years of this relationship, Globalstar supplied around 100 satellite phones for communication with offshore platforms. Although Pemex was not requesting satellite data services from Globalstar at the time, Globalstar found it would get a lot of business from service companies installing offshore platforms, and in this way was able to develop its exposure to the Mexican oil and gas market.

Since that time, however, the company has developed some more tailored offerings for the oil and gas industry with a focus on safety. The company’s SPOT communicator, for example, is a personal satellite communications device that allows the user to send one-way updates on their location and situation to Globalstar services. In Mexico, Globalstar saw the opportunity to tailor this device to the specific safety needs of the offshore oil and gas industry. In the Gulf of Mexico, severe weather causes critical safety problems for workers located at offshore installations and vessels, as the deaths caused by Tropical Storm Nate in 2011 proved. In response to the problem of offshore worker safety, Globalstar Mexico developed a unique SPOT communicator that sends out an emergency signal and a GPS location once exposed to water. Globalstar aims for this technology to be added to every life vest that Pemex uses at its offshore installations, and is working with a company already contracted to provide offshore safety and rescue services to Pemex.

As well as offering this particular tailored device to the oil and gas industry, Globalstar also offers another custom device specifically suited to industry needs: a SPOT communicator designed to be intrinsically safe for use in potentially combustible environments. Such a safety device allows users to transmit location and situation details when working in remote, potentially dangerous locations, without the worry of igniting flammable gases in the work environment.