Partner Perspective: Harris CapRock

Andrew Lucas

Andrew Lucas
Global Operations Officer
Harris CapRock Communications

Harris CapRock builds robust, managed-network solutions for customers that span the energy, government and maritime markets and operate in some of the world’s most remote and harsh environments.

As the world’s single largest commercial buyer of space segment, we provide solutions and technologies to compliment satellite communications, but these are not the limit to our products and services. We provide fully managed communications by leveraging expertise across multiple technologies – satellite, wireless and terrestrial. Each customer we serve has their own set of distinct requirements but shares the common need for reliable communications in remote and harsh environments.

We also serve as a trusted technology advisor to our clients and assist them by helping to develop fully managed or turnkey solutions that enable clients to maximize the value of their networks. Harris CapRock is unique in that we remain technology agnostic and employ the best solution for our clients.

Our focus is to deliver the right solution from equipment set and frequency perspective, provide the adequate data rates, throughput, network availability and reliability each of our clients require.

Harris CapRock talks about the idea of the “rig of the future.” Can you describe that? 

The focus of the “rig of the future” is on comprehensive end-to-end communications for the entire rig system to provide: improved situational awareness, faster decision making, real-time remote control, increased automation, lower operating costs and safer work environments.

For our customers, operational success depends on factors such as amount of bandwidth, device IP connections, multi-path communications and an application-aware network.  As a company, we’re focused on designing the right communications networks to meet these dynamic customer requirements.

What role does communications technology and VSAT in particular, play in meeting future rig requirements? 

Bandwidth requirements are increasing as more information is driven comprehensively through oil and gas enterprise networks. This high growth in bandwidth demand, paired with more remote and automated sites has created a trend in the industry to connect the field to the office in real time. It is all about informed decision making, and end-to-end managed communications will enable this for the rigs of the future.  Major information resources like monitoring, surveillance and enterprise application systems have traditionally involved disjointed processes.  If companies have integrated operations, they can deliver increases in recovery and material cost more efficiently.

Today’s multi-tenant environments, commonly defined as multiple companies operating on one rig, require application-centric, complex networks. In addition to basic voice and data access needed for personnel to make instant, quick decisions regardless of location or bandwidth limitations, companies such as these demand bandwidth to support real-time applications that improve productivity, security and crew welfare and morale.

Harris CapRock is developing partnerships to enhance strategic sourcing of space segment that will enable customers to simplify capacity planning, increase flexibility and control, participate in future satellite and infrastructure planning and better support high bandwidth add-on applications. 

How is your partnership with iDirect helping you serve your customers? 

The biggest challenge currently seen in the industry is constantly providing value to the customer. The increased need for higher bandwidth demands greater value for their budget and dollars spent. iDirect, Harris CapRock and other industry partners are teaming to work together to build a better value solution for our customers.

iDirect has developed their satellite network platform to enable higher bandwidth by using commonly deployed networking technologies. They  also have the ability to seamlessly work with advanced routing and security protocols such as VRF tunnels and VLAN.

iDirect’s product roadmap contains the required elements of high bandwidth, advanced routing, multi-tenant security to compliment the new HTS satellite capabilities such as spot beams, global roaming and frequency reuse.  Harris CapRock continues to dialog with iDirect on the development cycle.

What emerging applications and trends are you seeing in the maritime environment – oil and gas, cruise and shipping? 

In the oil and gas environment, we are seeing that as drilling efforts get larger, communications requirements get larger and more complicated. For any multi-tenant drilling environment five or more companies with network requirements – from the operator, driller, mud logger, wireline company to remote operated vehicles – all need access to bandwidth-intensive applications to better enhance their overall productivity and improve collaboration.

Because of this, the demand for VSAT bandwidth in the oil and gas market could grow 12-20 percent in the coming years. This would allow companies to equip exploration vessels, workboats, tankers, production platforms and remote drilling sites with full corporate network access. Complex applications that could require this increase in bandwidth capacity could range from voice, email, video conferencing and streaming, helicopter flight monitoring, weather data, current monitoring, and even just surfing the Internet.

Today’s shipboard requirements are increasing as well. Industry innovations have expanded the ability to connect virtually every ocean region while improving operational efficiencies, safety, and crew morale and welfare. Five years ago, most vessels were operating with 64 Kbps, while today the average is 256 Kbps. In the next five years, we expect average ship demand to reach 10 Mbps.

Additionally, if you look beyond the surface of rig operations and further into the markets we serve, the demand of bandwidth has also grown with a new generation of crew members who are accustomed to a life of instant connectivity everywhere they go. During long stretches away from home, Web surfing, emails and text messages are an essential part of daily life.

The same trend patterns are seen in the cruise industry. Five years ago, the average bandwidth for a cruise ship was typically around 512 Kbps. Today’s cruise passengers want to stay connected and require upwards of 10 Mbps of bandwidth for communications. This is growing by more than 20 percent per year.

How are you leveraging iDirect to address these emerging applications? 

iDirect is part of the core technological platform for Harris CapRock by allowing us to act as a beta-test customer for new software releases providing feedback and content. By engaging in constant interactive dialog, Harris CapRock and iDirect together guide product roadmaps to address emerging applications to these key oil and gas, maritime and shipping markets. 

High Throughput satellites (HTS) are the buzz of the industry – are you planning to deliver HTS services? 

There are many HTS solutions we’re exploring further, but two examples of where we’ve started to invest in HTS capabilities are included below.

Harris CapRock recently selected Intelsat’s Epic platform to provide advanced broadband infrastructure and expand our service offerings for our global customers. We will utilize the Intelsat Epic platform to expand service offerings and offer new applications to our global customers across energy, maritime and government. We looked at a number of emerging technologies that have been receiving a great deal of attention and after thorough analysis we determined that Intelsat Epic was the best platform for our customers whose operations require high performance and maximum network uptime.

We are also rolling out next-generation HTS technologies as part of our contract with Royal Caribbean cruise lines to support communications on 33 ships, which includes global satellite coverage using a hybrid Ku-band/C-band architecture.

This includes the installation and commissioning of O3b’s Maritime broadband solution on two ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Sea. These two ships will be equipped with Harris CapRock’s Ku/C architecture, as well as O3b’s HTS Ka solution for seamless switching and focus high data rates to deliver one specific platform to one vessel.

In addition to these, Harris CapRock anticipates niche opportunities to build HTS Ka-band solutions for specific customer requirements. We’re looking forward to rolling out the technology for Royal Caribbean and exploring the potential for further uses. 

How do you make decisions about what bands to operate in? 

Our customers rely on us to get them the information and tools necessary to make informed decisions about what technologies are right for their operations. For all satellite platforms, we go through a complete engineering analysis – we look at the platform’s potential for our customer’s specific requirements and, in most cases, this means customers who use satellite services for time-sensitive, mission-critical communications.

We focus on beam coverage, power consumption, link availability and actual cost per bit of transponded capacity.  It is about the right solution for the mission profile and application requirements.  We’ve found that all frequency bands have their place – it is the application environment that helps determine the appropriate band.

As Global Operations Officer, Andrew Lucas is responsible for overseeing the operation and deployment of the business’ global satellite and terrestrial network infrastructure. He plays a key role in leading Harris CapRock’s global network operations, customer support centers, field services, and regional operations internationally. Prior to this, he served as Business Manager for Schlumberger Global Connectivity Services (GCS) until its acquisition by Harris Corporation in 2011. While with GCS, Mr. Lucas was instrumental in driving the business forward, delivering increased revenue, profitability and service quality through focus on business efficiency, method and structure. Mr. Lucas has also held multiple positions with Data Marine Systems. Mr. Lucas has over 20 years’ experience in the satellite communications industry with significant focus on technical and operational capabilities.

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