LEO network with satellites orbiting around 500 km from Earths surface

From the office to the ocean, the connectivity revolution has just begun, and it’s time to lay the foundation for a resilient and connected offshore energy sector, where every byte of data contributes to a safer, more efficient, and sustainable future, Chris Schonhut tells OGN

The oil and gas sector has reached a critical juncture. The balance between risk and reward is ever-present and technology, particularly automation, stands as a catalyst for safer drilling practices and an improved bottom line.

The sector is at the forefront of innovation, yet rigs are in dire need of a connectivity revolution.

If we were to fast forward, what does the rig of the future look like? Is full autonomy achievable, unmanned in the middle of the ocean, or are we heading towards a model akin to an F1 team, with a pit crew on the track working alongside a data team back at base?

Whatever your thoughts on full automation, when you picture the oil rig of the future, top on the wish list should be the ability to connect to high-speed, reliable internet.


Imagine a rig where fast networks enable seamless data transfer and management, fostering more informed and faster decision-making.

Schonhut ... solving connectivity issues

Connectivity would be at the forefront, not just for operational efficiency but also to enhance crew welfare and wellbeing.

Currently, connectivity all too often acts as a bottleneck for innovation. However, the good news is this is changing rapidly with new technologies transforming connectivity into an enabler for all rigs.

While some assets may already be fully autonomous, others still require human intervention, but regardless, fast and reliable connectivity can streamline maintenance and monitoring, improving operations, efficiency, and safety.


The mention of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite networks might have drawn blank stares a few years ago, but today, a seismic shift is occurring in the satellite communications landscape.

Unlike traditional geostationary satellites, which orbit at much higher altitudes, LEO satellites orbit close to Earth’s surface, significantly reducing the delay in transfer time for the data to travel from the rig to the satellite, known as latency.

A low latency is especially critical for applications that require real-time communication, such as video conferencing and cloud-based data uploads.

Starlink and OneWeb are two prominent companies that are working on building satellite internet constellations to provide global broadband internet access, both with constellations of hundreds of satellites orbiting above us.

LEO users can now expect download speeds of up to 220 megabits per second (Mbps) at sea, enabling remote working, monitoring, and high-quality video calls back to shore.


Compared to traditional Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSAT), LEO connectivity offers higher capacity, faster data, and smaller antennas.

The benefits of connected technology extend beyond efficiency to upstream operations, focusing on safety, efficiency, and reliability, operating 24/7 to predict and prevent failures.

At Clarus Networks, we are pursuing cutting-edge connectivity solutions, and championing the utilisation of LEO multipath connectivity.

In today’s hyper-connected world, where every millisecond counts, having a resilient and robust connectivity solution is non-negotiable.

Even though Starlink has proven to be highly reliable, some organisations still require a secondary connection due to critical communication needs.

In such instances, the conventional wisdom might point towards supplementing with a VSAT system.

However, the smarter, more future-proof alternative is to employ a multipath connectivity strategy with both Starlink and OneWeb.

Coupled with specialised high-performance antennas designed to withstand extreme temperature and weather conditions, this ensures connectivity even in the most remote and challenging environments, ensuring that mission-critical communications are never interrupted.

The majority of our offshore customers cite crew welfare as a key reason for installing better connectivity.

The benefits are easy to imagine; a connected crew can call loved ones back on land without restriction or stream high quality entertainment, all improving morale while working away.

However, the industry is shifting towards operational efficiency as a key driver for connectivity.

The rig of the future will be smart, data-driven, with an ‘internet of things’ continuously reporting and communicating.

As sustainability gains traction, better connectivity emerges as a tool for reducing carbon emissions, supporting more sustainable operations.


Having installed Starlink on many rigs globally, we consistently see outstanding results. This experience gives us real insights into how offshore companies can best manage the integration of connected tech.

Critical steps include establishing a base infrastructure that meets minimum requirements, identifying applications for enhancement, ensuring scalability, and finally, prioritising operations that make the most significant difference to business operations.

Integrating faster connectivity with older infrastructure isn’t always simple.

If you’re considering updates to a rig, remember that the smartest investments aren’t always in what has worked before, but in what will work best moving forward.

Adherence to the past neglects the rapid advancements we’re witnessing in LEO networks, and technology needs to be future-proof.

However, for some, complete removal of VSAT may be a step too far, and in this case, LEO can provide industry-leading service level agreements for bandwidth, latency, and availability, improving reliability and speed, with older VSAT technology still onboard.

LEO systems are much easier to install compared to older infrastructure, with potential for massive improvements with minimal downtime.


A global perspective on connectivity showcases the dominance of two key players - Starlink and OneWeb.

Starlink, spearheaded by SpaceX, boasts over 4,000 active satellites and offers global coverage for maritime, including poles.

OneWeb, in collaboration with Eutelsat, has launched 648 satellites, covering the North Sea and Northern Atlantic, with plans for global coverage by Q1 2024.

Delving into the details, Starlink Maritime offers download speeds of 220 Mbps per terminal, with less than 99 ms latency and no service level agreement.

OneWeb, with 200 Mbps download, 20 Mbps upload, and less than 150 ms latency, provides a 99.95 per cent uptime service level agreement. The competitive landscape between these two giants is shaping the future of offshore connectivity.


It’s clear the rig of the future is not merely a standalone platform; it’s a connected and intelligent ecosystem where technology augments human capabilities.

As Director of Maritime and Energy at The Clarus Networks Group, I see a future where our industry embraces the transformative power of connectivity, in turn minimising risk and maximising efficiency.

From the office to the ocean, the connectivity revolution has just begun, and the horizon is brimming with possibilities.

It’s time to lay the foundation for a resilient and connected offshore energy sector, where every byte of data contributes to a safer, more efficient, and sustainable future.

* Chris Schonhut is Director of Maritime and Energy at The Clarus Networks Group and a leader in the global maritime and offshore energy sector, with wide ranging experience driving strategic initiatives, fostering industry partnerships and spearheading innovative solutions.

His career trajectory includes working with leading maritime corporations and energy firms.

Driven by a steadfast commitment to leveraging technology and sustainable practices, Schonhut is helping shape the future of maritime and offshore energy connectivity by collaborating with industry leaders to deliver high-speed internet everywhere, for everyone.

By Abdulaziz Khattak