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Maritime Digitalisation & Communications

VSAT delivers fast ship connectivity

Tue 03 Apr 2018 by Martyn Wingrove

VSAT delivers fast ship connectivity
Elcome installed new Sailor 900 Ku antennas on LNG carriers in the Middle East

Partners, distributors and integrators of Cobham Satcom VSAT have provided broadband solutions to various vessel types using Sailor hardware

VSAT providers and system integrators have benefited from using Cobham Satcom Sailor antenna hardware with their services. Shipowners, managers and seafarers have used the Ku-band and Ka-band connectivity that Sailor antennas provide on vessels for greater communications to shore and internet access.

An example of how an integrator has worked with Cobham Satcom and a VSAT provider to deliver faster satellite communications to a fleet of gas carriers came to light in February this year. Elcome International said it had completed a retrofit programme across a fleet of liquefied natural gas tankers using Sailor equipment.

Elcome executive director Jimmy Grewal said a team of engineers decommissioned the existing VSAT systems and installed new Sailor 900 Ku antennas and associated below-deck terminal equipment on 40 ships in four months during 2017.

Most of the installations were performed at sea but some were conducted in ports in eight countries, he said. Elcome created three independent networks on each ship for corporate traffic, crew voice and internet connections and the transfer of performance data from shipboard sensors. Elcome provides specific data quotas to crew members and manages their airtime.

VSAT connectivity and media entertainment is provided by Global Eagle Entertainment. Its senior director of commercial shipping Rainier Abreu said its partnership with Elcome “is a critical element in Global Eagle’s strategy to develop the Middle East and Asia region.”

Elcome said Sailor VSAT antennas were chosen because of their fast installation and integration. It meant Elcome could follow the owner’s requirement for a three-day turnaround for each vessel installation.

Onboard entertainment

Global Eagle launched its OceanPrime TV onboard entertainment package in January this year. This was designed for distribution to commercial shipping over VSAT with live access to sports, news and other television channels.

Global Eagle senior vice president for maritime Ole Sivertsen said these services should “allow commercial shipping to improve crew morale with a very quick upgrade.”

OceanPrime TV can be installed by qualified resellers in one day and vessel owners to sign a 24-month contract. A silver package includes two channels and gold package offers four channels.

Applied Satellite Technology (AST) Group provides VSAT services using Cobham Satcom’s Sailor antennas. It provides Ku-band connectivity to vessels worldwide using Sailor 900 VSAT. It can also match this to live media services on board vessels that come over Sailor 90 satellite TV receive only antennas.

AST said Sailor 900 has three axes of stabilisation and a single coax cable link to an antenna control unit. For vessels with insufficient space for a 90 cm antenna, AST offers a Sailor 600 VSAT for Ku-band. It has a 60 cm dish and weighs 35 kg. It also has dynamic motor brakes and automatic azimuth calibration.

As a distributor of Inmarsat services, AST offers its Fleet Xpress service, which incorporates Ka-band VSAT from the Global Xpress network with FleetBroadband for back up. AST can provide Sailor 100 GX and Sailor 60 GX antennas for these worldwide Ka-band services. These are similar to the Ku-band equivalents with automatic azimuth calibration and a single cable connection to the below-deck equipment.

Thor 7 connectivity

For vessels needing Ka-band over Europe, the Mediterranean and Middle East, AST can offer Telenor’s Thor 7 satellite coverage. This is delivered to vessels using Sailor 900 Ka VSAT and iDirect X7 satellite routers. All of these Ka-band and Ku-band services are also available with Intellian antennas. This includes v100Ka and v60Ka antennas for Thor 7 maritime broadband.

Alphatron Marine is also a gold partner for Telenor Thor 7, providing Ka-band connectivity to vessels operating within the regional coverage. To deliver this satellite link, Alphatron supplies Intellian V60Ka antennas and a prewired 19-in cabinet that contains a VT iDirect X7 modem, 3G router, wifi transceiver, Ethernet switches and an uninterruptable power supply.

Ships using Thor 7 through Alphatron’s service can obtain downlink speeds over European shipping lanes from 512 kbps to 24 Mbps. Downlink speeds vary between 128 kbps and 6 Mbps. This is supported by iDirect’s Velocity platform for automatic and seamless spot beam handover for continuous connectivity.

Mediterranean connections

Cyprus-headquartered Tototheo Maritime provides Ku-band VSAT with Sailor 900 and Sailor 800 antennas. It can link up to two antennas to one modem, without the need for an additional box to manage this feature.

This requirement arises when a vessel needs a reliable satellite connection even when there are obstructions in the way, such as bridge antenna or when a vessel is beside an oil production platform. In these cases, two Sailor antenna controllers manage the connections between satellite and modem. Sailor 800 VSAT is similar in performance to the 1 m Sailor 900 VSAT, but has an 83 cm dish and pre-configured radio frequency equipment.

Tototheo is also able to convert Sailor 900 VSAT for Ka-band services by updating the radio frequency feed and antenna electronics. Alternatively, ships can be connected to Global Xpress with a Sailor 60 GX or Sailor 100 GX antenna that come with antenna control units and GX modem.

Greece-headquartered Otesat-Maritel also offers Fleet Xpress and Ku-band VSAT for regional coverage, plus it provides C-band VSAT for global communications. It can also provide value-added services, such as voice over IP, simultaneous voice and data communications and monitoring programs.

Otesat-Maritel provides crew and operational communications using its s@tGate networking tool that optimises data transmissions and manages satellite bandwidth. s@tGate switches connectivity between VSAT and L-band for low cost routeing and bandwidth reliability.

This unit enables Otesat-Maritel’s onboard ICT network and crew welfare services, such as internet cafe, email and telephony. s@tGate allows integration of further services and applications from other providers.

Cold climate VSAT

Calgary, Canada-based Network Innovations is another service partner of Cobham Satcom. It offers maritime VSAT through its own Maverick service with Sailor 900 and Sailor 800 Ku-band antennas. It is also able to supply Global Xpress with Sailor 60 and Sailor 100 GX antennas.

Network Innovations has extended the coverage of VSAT into Polar areas when this is required. For example, since 2016, it worked with Inmarsat and Cobham to provide Ka-band communications for expedition cruise ships operating in seas between South America and Antarctica.

This was tested in 2017 on Nova Cruising’s passenger ship Ocean Nova with a Sailor 100 GX antenna that was able to remain connected during the voyage to Inmarsat’s geostationary fifth generation satellite.

Ku-band and Ka-band VSAT has also been tested with vessels operating in the Canadian Arctic using the coverage that Network Innovations has collated in its Maverick service.

Network Innovations also offers Ku-band and Ka-band satellite communications with Intellian’s v-Series of antennas. This includes v80G and v130G for Ku-band and GX60 and GX100 for Global Xpress.

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