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Maritime Digitalisation & Communications

Integrated VSAT is needed for full fleet communications

Wed 04 Apr 2018 by Martyn Wingrove

Integrated VSAT is needed for full fleet communications
Satcom Global VSAT provides broadband connectivity to fleets of ships

VSAT service providers have upgraded their offering with new value-added services, cyber security and faster data burst rates

Integrated VSAT solutions are becoming more advanced by providing connectivity, cyber security and internet of things (IoT) for fleet management. Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) partnered with Alpha Ori, starting in 2017, to provide shipowners with more effective ways of managing their fleets.

This uses secure broadband satellite communications using SingTelís own satellites and teleport infrastructure with cyber security, IoT applications and data analytics. Their combined service tracks and analyses more than 5,000 data points from shipís navigation, engine performance and cargo handling systems.

SingTel is also partnered with Singapore Maritime Academy to introduce an online portal for crew training and development. SingTel security arm Trustwave is working with Inmarsat to enhance vessel cyber protection over Fleet Xpress and SingTel has introduced a cyber security training institute. More details on SingTelís services and views on digitalisation are in this yearís issue of Singapore Solutions, a sister publication to Marine Electronics & Communications.

Speedcast International announced in February that it has partnered with SRH Marine to provide vessels with Navigation as a Service (NaaS), to distribute and update electronic navigational charts. This is delivered through Speedcastís Sigma Gateway Xtreme and SRHís Pilot platforms.

Together they provide an e-navigation and ECDIS compliance service, with remote monitoring and data analytics, using data transmissions over Ku-band VSAT Fleet Xpress and Fleet Broadband.

Sigma Gateway Xtreme was introduced in November 2017 as a device for managing Speedcastís global Ku-band VSAT, Fleet Xpress, L-band and 4G services. It has solid state drives, remote power management, multiple fans and cyber security protection that is delivered by Fortinetís unified threat management platform and content filters.

SRH provides a full range of digital products for ECDIS, including Admiralty vector charts and navigational publications, from the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office.

VSAT improvements

In February, Globecomm unveiled its expanded Nimbus portfolio for maritime communications, including VSAT, L-band and hybrid connectivity. There are three options for shipowners and managers to choose from: Nimbus Lite, Nimbus and Nimbus Pro.

These were introduced as shipping is increasingly using high-throughput satellites and mixing VSAT with 4G services. These extensions are based on the existing Nimbus smartbox that was introduced in 2013 and which manages business and crew communications across 1,000 installations.

Nimbus Lite is an entry-level option for vessels that require low data needs and limited communications outlay. Nimbus Pro is designed for use with high throughput and Nimbus remains the middle option for securely controlled and defined networks.

Nimbus automatically switches between satellite and cellular networks and supports applications such as voyage management systems and chart updates for ECDIS. It manages email and file compression.

All Nimbus installations can be monitored and managed from any location via Globecommís Cirrus cloud portal for visibility, control and accountability across networks and devices. Cirrus can be used for managing satellite connectivity and redundancy, software updates and for configuring user accounts and establishing firewall rules.

Satcom Global is improving its Aura VSAT network with more coverage and high throughput satellite (HTS) spot beams. Its Ku-band VSAT comes from satellites operated by SES, Intelsat, Eutelsat and JSAT.

This will be enhanced when SES commissions three HTS units this year as Satcom Global has committed capacity on these. Within an agreement signed in 2017, SES will also provide the ground network infrastructure, which enables multi-satellite access and service integration solutions. Aura comes with iDirect Velocity hardware that is ready for the introduction of HTS coverage.

Aura comes with iDirect Velocity hardware that is ready for the introduction of HTS coverage

Aura is supported by a comprehensive suite of value-added services and a range of back-up options, including Iridium Certus, which is due to be launched later this year. Aura provides internet browsing and access to online applications, email, instant messaging and voice services.

Updates galore

NSSLGlobal has updated its range of VSAT-based services for ship operations and crew welfare. This has increased download and upload speed from and to ships for data and voice transmissions. Part of the update is providing dedicated to bandwidth on NSSLGlobalís VSAT IP@Sea service.

This uses digital video broadcasting over a second generation of satellites with committed information rates that can be increased for a burst in data transmissions. This means ships will always have enough bandwidth for crew welfare and operational requirements. Bandwidth can be boosted for a temporary period up to 100 Mbps when using HTS coverage.

NSSLGlobal has improved its CrewUnite and CrewVision suite of seafarer communications and entertainment services by offering a portal for managing a wide variety of media available to crew. This includes on-demand access to news channels and television programmes without slowing down internet speeds on board.

In 2017, NSSLGlobal introduced its FusionIP service, which combines VSAT and cellular connectivity within the same device. VSAT is delivered through a Cobham Satcom Sailor 60 cm antenna and the FusionIP below-deck unit.

This automatically switches between 4G and 3G cellular networks where they are available and satellite networks to achieve optimum data speeds and low-cost routeing. NSSLGlobal said this service is suitable for yachts, crew transfer vessels, offshore renewables installation vessels, fishing and coastal commercial vessels.

NSSLGlobal also has an entry-level option as it offers CC-Lite for email and voice services with tighter control of bandwidth and communications costs.

Castor Marine can also combine VSAT with cellular networks using one device on vessels. This optimises connectivity and reduces costs when vessels are in 3G or 4G network coverage. This can be used for maritime internet, IT network support and crew welfare services.

Castor can design, implement and maintain onboard IT and wifi networks and the wide area network between vessels and shore offices of a shipping company. Wireless networks enable crew to use their own devices on ships using Castorís VSAT airtime.

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