Insight | Can the digitised world fully exist when connectivity isn’t assured?


Can the digitised world fully exist when connectivity isn’t assured?


Mike Carter, President, Enterprise Business Unit, Inmarsat, explains why always-on connectivity is worth considering before catastrophic events disrupt mission-critical services. 

Technology has revolutionised every aspect of our lives. We’ve come to rely on it to make our personal and professional lives more productive, easier and safer. Many of the disruptive technological breakthroughs that are expected to solve some of our biggest problems from the sustainability crisis to productivity issues are reliant on always-on, high-quality connectivity. This includes a whole host of technologies, from autonomous vehicles and smart industrial applications, to distributed energy networks, many of which we consider to be part of the Internet of Things, says Mike Carter, president, enterprise business unit at Inmarsat.

The list doesn’t stop there. In fact, 65% of the world’s GDP is predicted to be digitised by the end of 2022, according to the IDC. Business digitisation shows no signs of slowing down, while over half (56%) of CEOs agree that digital improvements lead to increased revenue and positive business outcomes. As a result, in 2022, the worldwide spend on digital transformation is expected to reach $1.8 trillion (€1.80 trillion) the monetary equivalent of the economies of France, Italy or Canada.

However, for businesses to truly be able to make the most of their colossal investments in digitalisation, such as those investing in industrial IoT, their chosen method of connectivity must be ubiquitous and reliable.

Always-on connectivity is crucial

There have been a number of instances in the news where businesses haven’t ensured they have the adequate connectivity options to ensure business continuity in the event of a catastrophic event.

In July 2022, for example, a quarter of Canada got cut off from the internet, as well as landline and cellular services, for nearly a full day. The cut-off was a result of one of Canada’s major telecoms providers Rogers suffering an outage. In this instance, one company’s lack of connectivity back-up proved incredibly costly for consumers and businesses many of which will have been providing mission-critical services with one analyst estimating the Canadian economy had taken a $142 million hit (€142.27 million) as a result of the outage.

Connectivity blackouts can also be acts of deliberate sabotage by malicious actors, such as the recent mystery attack on internet cables in Paris. When it comes to remote business operations, terrestrial equipment risks being destroyed by the ever more frequent manifestations of climate change such as extreme weather conditions and the unpredictable behaviour of wild animals.

As our world digitises, with mainstream businesses, as well as critical infrastructure and major industries being increasingly reliant on always-on connectivity, outages are becoming more and more unacceptable and, at times, can even be life-threatening. As and when primary systems fail, a seamless back-up system is needed to ensure connected digital systems function as they should.

The role of satellite connectivity

In case an unexpected disaster strikes, and immediate relief is needed, satellites are able to provide a seamless integrated connectivity alternative. This should be considered as part of an organisation’s disaster recovery plan and procured ready for implementation, because, by the time a critical incident happens, trying to scramble around to procure an alternative mode of connectivity means it is already too late.

However, not all satellite connectivity shares the same attributes. Some varieties are more reliable than others and procurement should be based on the specific context of the data producer’s situation and the most likely incidents to occur. For example; Inmarsat’s ELERA network services like BGAN use the ultra-reliable L-band frequency and are ideal for critical infrastructure where always-on connectivity is needed, as weather may impact the signal of other frequencies, or where robust, small form factor antennas are needed. However, with a narrowband cap, there may be better VSAT options if the priority is speed.

There is a perception that satellite is expensive, and while it has come down in price, you do get what you pay for in terms of quality. But, if you want rocksteady, reliable connectivity to support outages or failover out of cellular range, it is more important to consider the cost of not operating, which can run into millions of dollars, rather than comparing satellite’s value to cellular connectivity.

Ultimately, the value that satellite provides in terms of reliability and peace of mind in a world where always-on connectivity is a must have is the key consideration for businesses and those operating in mission-critical industries.

Mike Carter's blog originally appeared in VanillaPlus.

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About the author

Mike Carter is President of Inmarsat Enterprise, leading a team focused on the provision of satellite connectivity and IoT business solutions to land-based businesses. Mike joined Inmarsat in 2016 and was appointed President of Inmarsat Enterprise in 2020. Before working for Inmarsat he served in a variety of commercial roles and as a senior officer in the British Army’s Royal Engineers.