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Convenience of Connectivity – Trade Only Today


Those of you of a certain age probably remember, in the mid-1990s, inserting a promotional America Online disc into your computer and enjoying hours of free Internet and email access. electronic before subscribing. You may even remember anticipating the to crush as the modem connected.

With a diameter of 14.5 inches, the KVH TracPhone V30 is popular on a wide range of boats.

Thinking about those days, everything seems so archaic. We walk around with cell phones that are actually mini-computers, allowing us to go from texting to emailing to online shopping in just seconds. We switch from 4G or 5G to Wi-Fi seamlessly. Certainly, in several years, we will come back to today thinking the same thing as we do about dial-up access. With the pace of technological advancement and increasingly competitive connectivity packages, we have become conditioned to expect rapid developments.

When it comes to boaters, however, the desire of consumers and industry has outstripped capacity and affordability. However, connectivity is about to change, dramatically.

Marine and terminal service providers are finally able to answer a simple question: “Why can’t this be the same as what we get everywhere else?” As Peter Broadhurst, senior vice president of yachting, passengers and safety at Inmarsat puts it.

What is driving the change? “It’s a combination of things,” says Ronald Spithout, president of the Inmarsat Maritimes. For example, satellites improve with each launch; the fifth generation of Inmarsat’s GlobalXpress satellite was more powerful than the first three combined. “It’s less and less expensive to mount satellites, to build satellites,” he adds. “Technology makes it possible to achieve more. All of this has an advantage for the people on the boats.

KVH's TracPhone V30 features a DC powered design and in-dome modem for superior signal strength and efficiency.

KVH’s TracPhone V30 features a DC powered design and in-dome modem for superior signal strength and efficiency.

Broadhurst says demand for online access on board was increasing even before the pandemic prompted boaters to take refuge on the water. “We’ve seen owners of superyachts go to areas they wouldn’t normally go, to more remote places,” he says. “We have seen more and more people using their yachts a lot more, both privately and charter.”

To remedy all this, Inmarsat recently released Orchestra and Elera. Orchestra is a “network of networks”, explains Spithout, bringing together GEO (geostationary orbit) satellites, LEO (low earth orbit) satellites and terrestrial 5G. The combination eliminates the problems of congested networks at popular ports. A yacht that may be one of the hundreds in the Mediterranean can experience the same connectivity as a single-handed yacht in Antarctica.

In addition, Orchestra uses what Inmarsat calls dynamic mesh technology. This means that a yacht within range of a 5G signal can not only have sufficient capacity for its own needs, but can also route capacity to other vessels that are out of land range. Since each customer’s terminal can direct traffic to and from another customer terminal, Inmarsat compares the system to a mobile network of terminals, expanding Orchestra’s reach and improving performance. “A 45-foot sailboat or a 45-meter superyacht could be serviced,” says Broadhurst.

Ronald spithout

Ronald spithout

Elera is a component of Orchestra, an advanced L-band service specifically designed for mobility customers, ranging from boaters to aviation enthusiasts and governments. It promises significantly better bandwidth, smaller terminals, and lower costs. For example, speeds should be up to 1.7 Mbps. Compare that to Inmarsat’s current generation of L-band service, where “we were talking about 400 kilobits per second,” says Spithout.

The launch of the first satellite is expected before the end of the year. Although the new terminals are not yet available, existing FleetBroadband users will be able to use their current antennas after upgrading the electronics below deck. Ultimately, “the small boat market will benefit from the high end,” Broadhurst says.

Inmarsat is not the only company to develop smaller terminals and better service. KVH introduced the TracPhone V30, which measures 37 centimeters (about 14½ inches) in diameter, a far cry from the original satcom domes which measured several feet in diameter. While the company has had for a few years an antenna of the same size, the V3-HTS, this antenna requires two coaxial cables. The TracPhone V30 uses one, and it may be a boater’s existing cable.

Bob balog

Bob balog

“It’s so much easier,” says Bob Balog, KVH CTO.

Additionally, while the V3 antenna used a modem and antenna control unit in a rack-mounted under-bridge installation, the V30 has a much smaller single-point DC powered unit.

“I’ve been on a lot of boats under 60 feet, and few of them have electronic racks,” Balog explains. The V30 is less than a foot long, roughly the same size as the TV box KVH has been using for several years. “This is pushing into an area where you can do self-installation,” he says.

Balog says the product should appeal to a larger base of boaters than previous setups. “I think this will attract a lot of weekend warriors who have a 38ft Sea Ray or something a little bigger and want to put an antenna on it, but don’t necessarily care,” he says. he.

Peter Broadhurst

Peter Broadhurst

The V30 also promises data speeds as fast as 6 Mbps for downloads and 2 Mbps for downloads over KVH’s mini-VSAT HTS broadband network, which employs 135 active service trunks around the world. While “not all the kids on your boat can stream Netflix in 4K,” Balog says, just surf the web, check email, and post on social media. And there is cybersecurity built into the V30 and the satellite network.

So what’s the next step? Both Inmarsat and KVH keep their next-gen cards close to the waistcoat. One thing is for sure: it will beat dial-up access for sure.

This article originally appeared in the October 2021 issue.


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