Viasat’s RigNet Norway office provides connectivity to North Sea oil operations

ViaSat-3 expected to help meet industry’s ever-growing need for bandwidth

Stavanger Harbour one day in July

One part of the harbour in Stavanger, Norway. This picture was taken during the Gladmat festival (food festival) in 2015.

Brth Aadne Strenes/Getty Images

The coastal town of Stavanger is one of Norway’s oldest and wealthiest cities, and also the place nine RigNet employees call home. It’s a picturesque community awash in history, economic wealth, and natural beauty – set on an inlet of the North Sea in southwest Norway.

Numbeo, a cloud-sourced database, ranks Stavanger “very high” on its quality-of-life index, assigning it a total of 187.6 points out of a possible 240.

It’s also the oil and gas capital of Norway, which makes it a logical location for a RigNet Viasat office. Viasat acquired RigNet in 2021.

The small group of people who work here provide advanced communications and network solutions to drilling rigs, platforms, industry-related vessels, and branch offices — not only in Stavanger but throughout Europe and to Africa.

All attest to Stavanger’s high quality of life.

“It’s a nice place to live; people are friendly, wages are good here, and it’s not too expensive,” said Andreas Skaret, a project engineer supervisor for RigNet Viasat.

Because the office has few employees and room for social distancing, much of the team has continued to come into work through the bulk of the pandemic.

“I ride my bicycle to work every day, as do a lot of people,” Skaret said. “Stavanger is quite flat, and we have bicycle highways that make it easy to ride.”

Finance manager Marianne Ullenes, also a daily bicycle commuter, was born just outside Stavanger.

“I think it’s quite normal in Norway to stay where you’re born,” she said. “I would never leave this part of the country. I want to stay close to family and friends, and the quality of life is good.

“We’ve had a good economy since the ’80s, and while we have upturns and downturns, we haven’t been struck as hard by financial crises as the rest of Europe.”

That economic stability equates to sense of national calm, she said.

“Our government invests the oil money to benefit us in downturns,” Ullenes said.
“We trust in our government and trust in our leaders. We are a small country, so I think it’s easier to make that happen. But we are also well-educated and very global, with people here from America, England, and Germany — all coming to work in Norway.”

RigNet Viasat team in Stavanger, Norway

Some of the RigNet Stavanger team pictured here in their office. From left, Kjell Bjarne Gjerde, Erik Persson, Øyvind Folge, Bård Ollestad and Elena Sunnanå


The RigNet crew works in a fast-changing industry with sophisticated clientele and high expectations for service.

“Norway has always been very technology driven, not only our companies but even in our private homes,” Ullenes said. “And the Norwegian (oil) customer and North Sea is quite complex; they expect a lot of services.

“So we have to be on top to keep up with what the customers in our region expect us to deliver.”

In Stavanger — a city driven by the combined power of technology and oil and gas — that bar is already set high.

RigNet employs a variety of techniques and services to meet those demands. Its communication solutions are based on either VSAT (a two-way satellite ground station), radio link (a two-way radio communication system), 4G LTE, or fiber — or a combination of those technologies.

Some of the drilling rigs it serves have as many as five different paths of communication to the shore, requiring multiple LTE providers with additional radio links and VSAT equipment to create the best solution. RigNet often uses advanced WAN (wide area network) and SD-WAN (software-defined wide area network) solutions to further improve traffic flow.

Given the ongoing importance of oil and gas to Norway, the technology required to meet the industry’s needs will grow ever more sophisticated.

Storied history

Officially established as a city in 1125, Stavanger relied for centuries on shipping, shipbuilding, and the fish-canning industry for its economic lifeblood. That changed in the 1960s, when oil was discovered in the North Sea, transforming it from a sleepy seaside town to an industrial center.

Oil and gas taken from the sea has made Norway one of the richest countries in the world, even as its citizens are among the world’s most enthusiastic consumers of green power. Oil and gas funds have financed much of the high quality-of-life and environmental initiatives the country enjoys.

While the country plans to continue developing its oil and gas industry, it’s also pivoting to make it as environmentally friendly as possible. Work is already underway to power oil installations with renewable energy from shore. And oil and gas companies are continually finding ways to make their processes more efficient, both to cut costs and reduce impact on the environment. They’re also looking ahead to an eventual shift away from oil and gas toward renewable energy.

“Technology has made these operations more cost efficient, and more of the work can be done from on shore now,” Ullenes said. “But even as we move to more environmental energy choices like wind, we still need oil to create other things. I don’t think the industry will die soon; at the same time, it’s increasingly run in a more eco-friendly way.”

Growing bandwidth demand

All of that requires technology and connectivity. And as oil exploration extends further into the Arctic, so does the reach of, and need for, technology. RigNet is constantly working to meet those ever-growing needs.

“We serve some of the most northern rigs in the world,” Skaret said. “There is no communications infrastructure up there; the only way is via satellite.

“These companies demand a lot of bandwidth for themselves and the crew. We serve a rig with up to 50-megabit downlink and up to 25-megabit uplink on satellite, which has been groundbreaking in this region.”

In addition to serving the offshore oil rigs, RigNet provides connectivity to the crews’ living quarters, which may be part of the worksite or on a separate floating platform. Many oil workers move from one site to another, following the flow of not only oil, but cash.

Skaret said that, in Norway, crews rotate and typically work two weeks on and four weeks off.

“Then you also have the flotels — floating hotels that dock next to an installation and can have 400 to 500 people.”

Such operations require lots of bandwidth, and RigNet’s Stavanger team is looking forward to the additional capacity the upcoming ViaSat-3 satellite constellation plans to provide to its region.

“We’re waiting for ViaSat-3,” Skaret said. “We’re very eager to see what we can provide to our customers using Viasat modems and technology.

“We buy a lot of satellite bandwidth and it’s very expensive. If we could provide more bandwidth, I’m sure the customer would buy it. And if we can buy it in-house, we’re going to be in better hands.”

Oyvind Folge, RigNet’s regional vice president of sales for Europe and Africa, said the company is overdue for a boost in innovation — one he believes Viasat will provide.

“What I liked about RigNet originally was that it’s global and has a lot of exciting clients and good people,” he said. “It’s also had a good mix of managing both the entrepreneur/growth culture while adding all the layers of compliance and organizational structure.

“Viasat is a technology-strong company, with technology resources that are very appealing for the market segment we’re working in. I think that’s very positive for RigNet,” he said.