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Maritime Digitalisation & Communications

Intelsat delivers more high-throughput maritime coverage

Wed 29 Nov 2017 by Martyn Wingrove

Intelsat delivers more high-throughput maritime coverage
Intelsat-35e was brought into operation in October after it was launched in July on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket

Intelsat is set to extend Ku-band VSAT to southern hemisphere seas and increase its high-throughput capacity through new satellites

Intelsat is preparing to bring its next EpicNG satellite into operation, which will provide new broadband VSAT coverage in the southern Atlantic Ocean. This will include an extension of broadband to seas that are increasingly visited by expedition cruise ships.

According to Intelsat director of mobility solutions in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific Andrew Faiola, its IS-37e satellite will be commissioned in Q1 2018 with Ku-band widebeam coverage that is augmented with spot beams in both C-band and Ku-band. Some of this coverage will be over the Falkland Islands where there will be offshore projects in the future.

There will also be connectivity from Argentina and Chile to Antarctica, specifically for research vessels and cruise ships to use. “Expedition cruise shipping is a fast-growth sector and it is important to connect these vessels,” said Mr Faiola. “It is something we have been thinking about for some time.”

Intelsat’s 37e was successfully positioned in orbit on 29 September by Arianespace’s Ariane 5 launch vehicle. The Boeing-built satellite will support companies such as OmniAccess, which was acquired by Marlink in November, and Speedcast for satellite communications to maritime and offshore sectors.

Intelsat then brought the IS 35e EpicNG satellite into operation in October after it was launched in July on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. IS-35e brings C-band spot capacity to the Atlantic Ocean region to complement the C-band spots in the Indian Ocean Region on IS-33e. Mr Faiola predicts that operations with all types of maritime C-band “will see performance improvements,” he told Marine Electronics & Communications.

“There are many legacy C-band systems and there is a lot of interest in C-band from cruise ships because of its high availability,” he explained. Satellite IS-35e also includes Ku-band widebeams with coverage over the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Europe and Africa. Speedcast, Marlink and Orange have gained access to some of the capacity on this satellite.

“There is a lot of interest in C-band from cruise ships because of its high availability”

These two are part of Intelsat’s growing EpicNG constellation of high throughput satellites. Another, IS-29e, provides spot beams of Ku-band over South America, North Atlantic and the Caribbean, IS-32e over the Atlantic and Caribbean and IS-33e gives coverage over Europe and the Indian Ocean.

The final part of this constellation, Horizons 3e, is expected to be launched in Q4 2018 or Q1 2019 to provide spot beam coverage over the Pacific, East China Sea, South China Sea and Malacca Strait.

In the meantime, Intelsat will continue to invest in non-EpicNG satellites to replace its ageing units. IS-38 is scheduled to be launched between April and June 2018 to provide Ku-band coverage over Europe, to be followed by IS-39, which is due to be launched in 2019 to provide more coverage over southern Asia and the Indian Ocean

Mr Faiola said this extends VSAT coverage to the southern areas of the Indian Ocean for the first time. “This will cover shipping routes between South Africa and Singapore,” he explained, “and provide coverage for fishing vessels and yachts where there is increasing demand for connectivity.”

Future technologies

Intelsat is considering future satellite technologies, such as changing the shape of satellite beams or using laser instead of radio frequencies, said Mr Faiola. Intelsat is also a partner in OneWeb, which intends to deploy hundreds of mini-satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) over the next three years.

“OneWeb will bring pole-to-pole high throughput coverage with lower latency, and some applications will benefit from these LEO satellites,” said Mr Faiola, adding that the first 10 of these satellites, which are under construction in Toulouse, France, and due to be launched by the end of 2018 to test the technology. In November, OneWeb contracted Echostar subsidiary Hughes Network Services to manufacture the ground network to support a constellation of up to 900 mini satellites.

Since 2016, OneWeb has raised around US$1.5Bn from its partners, which include Virgin Group, SoftBank, Bharti Group, Qualcomm and Airbus. It is building a satellite manufacturing factory in Florida that is scheduled to open in 2020.

Intelsat plans to integrate OneWeb with its own constellation. “We are developing interoperable terminals for the LEO and our geostationary satellites,” said Mr Faiola and, if all these investments are successful, vessels will be able to use either LEO and geostationary satellites for Ku-band VSAT for the first time globally.

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