Tampnet Inc., the US subsidiary of the Norwegian-based leading offshore high capacity and low latency communications provider Tampnet AS (“Tampnet”), recently announced the closing of its acquisition of Broadpoint LLC (“Broadpoint”), a pioneer within offshore communications to the Oil & Gas (“O&G”) industry in the Gulf of Mexico (“GoM”).
Through the acquisition of Broadpoint, Tampnet will upgrade and expand the current 2G network consisting of 55 base stations and provide GoM-wide 4G/LTE (“4G”) offshore coverage to the O&G industry in the region, its resellers and its roaming partners. All base stations will be connected to a low- latency, high capacity backhaul network.
Separately, BP owns and operates The Gulf of Mexico BP Fiber Optic Network (BP GoM Fiber), a 1200 km subsea fiber cable system providing BP and other operator’s production facilities with high speed data communications. The network runs from landing stations in Freeport, Texas to Pascagoula, Mississippi mostly through the deep waters of the GoM. From this backbone cable, fiber branch leg connections are installed to 4 BP platforms and 10 other platforms.
BP and Tampnet have announced that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) that establishes the framework for Tampnet to utilize BP GoM Fiber capacity and host LTE base stations on BP operated platforms. The MoU also allows Tampnet to engage other operators of platforms connected to GoM Fiber to also host their services. Tampnet will be the owner and operator of the LTE network and will expand their 4G LTE coverage in the Deepwater region of the GoM using the high capacity, low latency and reliable fiber infrastructure. Details will be finalized in a contract expected to be signed before the end of 2016 and the MoU allows for work to begin immediately. The additional base stations installed on deepwater assets will provide overlapping 4G LTE coverage to the already planned, ubiquitous GoM coverage in shallower waters – providing a single, unified and consistent service from the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas all the way out to the deepwater regions.
The services will be open to all O&G activities; production platforms, exploration rigs, accommodation units, vessels and various devices. Furthermore, the operators and service companies will be able to subscribe to their own virtual private 4G LTE network – i.e construct their own “private cloud within the cloud” for their portfolio of production units, drilling rigs and vessel fleets. This deals with any security concerns, while also enabling efficient sharing and dynamic allocation of bandwidth between the various units. Offshore workers and private consumers will also benefit from the new service through Tampnet’s roaming agreements with major mobile telecommunication operators, enabling their personal devices to work in the offshore environment with their original service provider subscription and SIM.
The roll out in the deepwater region will commence on the BP operated assets in early 2017. The opportunity to participate and host LTE services will also be made available to other operators connected to the offshore fiber. BP is supportive of Tampnet’s ambition to maximize coverage in the deepwater area over the next 18-24 months and to efficiently extend broadband capacity beyond platforms to any device in the region.
The 4G LTE coverage will enable a number of new ways of working for an industry that has, since the significant drop in oil prices, been focused on using new technology to operate more efficiently and safely. Tampnet’s service will enable such solutions and bring operating efficiencies to new areas.
While the original purpose behind the network was to provide a game changing telecommunication infrastructure for the O&G industry, the service should also be of great benefit to UAV companies, cruise liners, shipping, coast guard, research and meteorological vessels etc.
Per Helge Svensson, CEO of the Tampnet Group commented: “We are very pleased to reach another important milestone in our efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. BP has been one of our key clients in the North Sea for the past 15 years, and we are excited about extending our cooperation to the Gulf of Mexico. We are very impressed by BP’s holistic approach with regards to using the fiber to extend the reach of the 4G LTE services; while obviously focusing on their own requirements for wireless connectivity in the offshore environment, they are equally concerned with ensuring the 4G roll out becomes an initiative that will benefit the entire industry in terms of safety, crew welfare, environmental monitoring and control, disaster recovery as well as more efficient operations.
While providing additional coverage for a key area of the GoM – with significant demand for reliable, high-capacity, low-latency communications infrastructure, the fiber connectivity will also make the overall telecommunication infrastructure and 4G LTE service more robust and reliable.”
BP identified Tampnet’s LTE solution as having the capability to provide cost effective and high quality services to enable an expanded range of connectivity options in the GoM. The LTE solution complements GoM Fiber, by building out broadband services beyond the fixed rigs themselves to encompass moving vessels, nomadic rigs, and individual devices as they move through and operate anywhere within the basin. This will enable important innovations such as mobile computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), remote video collaboration and even robotic inspection – as well as supporting existing operations.”
Tampnet operates the largest offshore high capacity communication network in the world and serves more than 240 O&G platforms, Floating Production Storage and Offloading units (FPSOs) and exploration rigs on the Danish, Norwegian and the UK continental shelves of the North Sea as well as in the GoM. In total, Tampnet owns and operates a redundant offshore infrastructure network based on 2,500km of subsea fiber optic cable in the North Sea, complemented with a large number of high- capacity, carrier grade radio links and a high number of 4G base stations.
Tampnet has since 2012 been owned by the EQT Infrastructure I and EQT Infrastructure II funds (“EQT Infrastructure”). EQT Infrastructure is part of EQT, the leading private equity group in Northern Europe with over EUR 22 billion in raised capital. EQT Infrastructure has extensive experience from both the communication and O&G sectors, and sees strong growth and strategic development potential for Tampnet with the acquisition of Broadpoint and the long-term partnership with the telecom carrier.