Connectivity may one day be given away free if maritime satellite communication companies can bring in sufficient revenues from application providers, industry experts believe.

But for now, the market is likely to continue developing along two lines. Bigger high-tech ship operators will look to build digital ecosystems, including crew services, while smaller owners focus on lowest price.

The digital approach for greener ships will require a seamless meshing of systems and communication modes so users do not notice when a signal switches from one satellite to another as happens more with low earth orbit satellites (LEOs)

Inmarsat claims it already does this with its high-end Fleet Xpress service, which switches automatically between geostationary (GEO) networks beaming on L-band or Ka-bandwidth...