ADTANCE SpaceX Starlink dish (Source: ADTANCE)

German business talks about SpaceX Starlink experience

Most of the information about the SpaceX Starlink LEO satellite broadband service comes not from the company but its beta customers. ADTANCE, a German after-sales service technology company, went on the record to discuss its preliminary experiences with Starlink from a business and potential reseller perspective.

“[ADTANCE] specializes on digitization of customer aftersales service, mainly focused on the industrials or machine manufacturer plant manufacturers special machine manufacturers,” said CEO Nils Arnold. “Since COVID-19, remote staff support has kept on growing bigger and bigger.”

The ADTANCE Support and Fieldstreaming solution provides multi-camera in-the-field streaming video customer support, enabling customer support technicians around the world to provide remote assistance to users through a smartglasses interface. Experts can provide real-time feedback and information to field technicians as they are examining and fixing machinery, production lines, and plants.

Remote field support applications are essential for complex, big-ticket machines where downtime is a significant expense.   ADTANCE says its solution provide 70% faster maintenance and inspection, 60% less downtime, and reduces travel expenses for repairs by 60% — all with 100% contactless operation.  For companies that have machinery located in remote areas, at sea or in other areas where internet connections are unreliable, Starlink provide a high-speed, low-latency broadband link between themselves and ADTANCE.

Under the SpaceX Starlink beta, ADTANCE managed to get four dishes for its testing and development use while two of its German-based customers managed to secure dishes as well. Connectivity in Germany can be challenging, especially in distant parts of the country where there is no fiber.  

“Our customers operate in almost every continent – some in very remote areas where conventional mobile connection reaches its limits,” said Moritz Seger, Digital Transformation Manager at ZAHORANSKY AG, a supplier of injection molding tools, packaging machines, and tufting and trimming machines. “The ability to use Starlink in combination with the ADTANCE Support and Fieldstreaming solution is very promising for our company and our customers. This solution allows us to gain independence from internationally varying conditions and poorly developed mobile networks in rural areas. We already use ADTANCE solutions on a daily basis in our global customer service and with the combination of both solutions, we are well prepared for the future.”

Starlink’s current service price at $99 per month and ability to provide “out of band” broadband connectivity without IT security intervention are very attractive to ADTANCE customers, since IT staff don’t have to create openings in existing firewalls or add bandwidth to support the application.

“As a supplier of airfield tankers operating around the world in the most isolated areas, we rely on reliable and fast communication for our service,” said Nico Hanemann, Head of Aviation Department, for Dr.-Ing. Ulrich Esterer GmbH & Co. Fahrzeugaufbauten und Anlagen KG. “The combination of the innovative remote assistance solution we already have in place with ADTANCE Support along with Starlink provides this capability and is also unbeatable in terms of cost.”

ADTANCE customers currently need to have a SpaceX Starlink beta dish installed in order to use it with the Support and Fieldstreaming solution and Arnold has customers hoping the geo-fencing limitation on Starlink can be lifted or made easier to work with in the future, since some often either have to move from location to location to fix things or have large pieces of machinery moving around from place to place.

Arnold would like to become a Starlink reseller in the future.  With over 500 customers, many including multiple locations or selling the ADTANCE support system as a bundled service package with every machine they ship and customers selling 10 to 1000 machines per year, he says could easily sell hundreds of dishes per year.

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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