In a year when most of the world came to a near total shutdown, certain parts of the maritime segment have been working harder than ever. Commercial transport, fishing, and all kinds of workboats, critical to global supply chain infrastructure, went into overdrive to keep grocery stores stocked and packages arriving to consumers. Added attention on stranded seafarers facing grueling conditions on board highlighted the necessity of connectivity for basic welfare. With COP26 happening later this year, there will also be inevitable pressure on the shipping industry to do more towards decarbonization. As the world finds itself emerging to the new normal, there is a natural and necessary opportunity for it to find better ways to live and work. The maritime industry is taking stock and looking at ways to improve.
Fortunately, the satellite industry has been working hard to address the needs of smaller vessels, expanding the market and helping to make access to connectivity more affordable, a necessity for the large volume of fishing vessels and commercial workboats, not to mention the interest from the leisure side of the market. Recent announcements by the likes of Intelsat, KNS, KVH, Intellian, and ST Engineering iDirect are each coalescing around a key enabler to support this class of vessels, namely, smaller, even carry-on, antennas.
The cost of these antennas is significantly less than anything previously available for similar performance.
Smaller antennas offer the market an easy, but reliable way to provide operational and crew or passenger connectivity. Just as we would no longer work in a building or stay in a hotel without a strong Wi-Fi connection, we see the same requirements from marine passengers and crew. But just how much punch can these small antennas deliver?
This new generation of sub-60cm antennas bring high-quality broadband performance in a smaller, lighter package. The antennas can typically be carried on-board by crew, and with simplified connectivity innovations, can even be installed without the need of additional technical support. Intelsat’s FlexMaritime or other similar networks, are using a combination of conventional widebeams and high throughput satellite (HTS) spot beams, to deliver a consistent level of broadband connectivity worldwide. These more powerful beams and high-power capacity allow for smaller antenna sizes to be as effective as larger ones.
The cost of these antennas is significantly less that anything previously available for similar performance. A lower price point means a quicker ROI for ship owners or fleet managers making the investment. Innovations in VSAT platform technology further reduce overall cost of ownership including ST Engineering iDirect’s recently introduced Mx-DMA® MRC which can wring every last drop of performance out of the antenna hardware and enable networks to scale in size to support the tens of thousands of still-unconnected or poorly connected vessels out there.
…the satellite industry has been working hard to address the needs of smaller vessels, expanding the market and helping to make access to connectivity more affordable…
Ultimately, smaller VSAT antennas can bring reliable, flexible, and economical connectivity to those remote users who are still without it. Service providers who develop creative solutions, such as KVH’s AgilePlans, make it easier than ever to choose a plan and get connected. ST Engineering iDirect can source our own modems and KNS antennas to help service providers rapidly get new antennas in the hands of their customers.
As maritime activity on smaller vessels around the world continues to grow, ST Engineering iDirect and our partners are working diligently to eliminate bottlenecks preventing adoption and developing new solutions to improve the safety, productivity and enjoyment of those at sea.