Cobham Satcom and Thales have introduced downloadable software to double data speeds over L-band
Ship operators and owners using Iridium Certus L-band satellite communications can double their connectivity through a straightforward firmware update after two antenna manufacturers introduced software upgrades.
Cobham Satcom and Thales are boosting throughput via their L-band terminals after satellite owner Iridium Communications introduced the Iridium Certus 700 service for maritime users.
Iridium Certus was introduced in 2019 after a second-generation satellite constellation was commissioned. Iridium launched 66 operating satellites, plus orbiting spares into low Earth orbit (LEO) as its Next constellation.
It then introduced Iridium Certus initially with data speeds on the uplink and downlink of up to 352 kbps. At the end of February 2020, Iridium Certus 700 was introduced with download speeds up to 704 kbps with weather-resilient coverage from LEO satellites.
In parallel, Cobham Satcom released a firmware upgrade for its Sailor 4300 Certus terminal, to boost throughput to 704 kbps, on its SYNC portal. Thales also released an upgrade for its VesseLink terminal on its cloud service.
“This establishes Iridium Certus as the fastest L-band service available on the market,” says Iridium vice president for maritime Wouter Deknopper.
“All new Cobham Sailor 4300 or Thales VesseLink terminals installed from now on will automatically be activated on the new 700 service,” he tells Maritime Optimisation & Communications.
“For Iridium Certus terminals already installed on vessels, our terminal manufacturers offer a free 700 firmware upgrade.”
Following terminal upgrades, vessel operators can use the enhanced bandwidth for more business applications, equipment-monitoring services and connected ship communications. There will be more bandwidth for crew communications and welfare services, such as internet access and social media applications.
Mr Deknopper says these lightweight antennas only weigh 3 kg, enabling seafarers to carry them onto ships and install them.
“Also, there are no moving parts in an Iridium Certus antenna,” he says. “Owing to the nature of the Iridium network, mechanically steered antennas are not required. Therefore, the antennas are virtually maintenance-free once installed.”
Iridium executive vice president Bryan Hartin says the global LEO coverage and reliable L-band means Iridium Certus 700 has become “the standard when it comes to providing a [Ku-band] VSAT companion service”.
Sales to date indicate more vessel owners are selecting Iridium Certus for ship communications. Cobham Satcom has delivered more than 2,000 Sailor 4300 terminals with software version 1.05 within the first year of service.
Cobham Satcom business manager for L-band Anders Tue Olsen expects more shipowners will install these terminals with the higher bandwidth. “Sales will be further strengthened with the upgrade to data speeds of 704 kbps,” he says. The upgrade includes new BCX (computer language translator) software version 2.4.2.
“All Sailor 4300 L-band terminals can be instantly upgraded at no additional cost through a simple process. We will support early adopters of the Iridium Certus 700 service with our new software upgrade,” Mr Olsen explains.
Upgrading opens new applications for vessel owners, including multi-user internet and virtual private networks, real-time equipment monitoring, cloud-based forms and telemedicine.
Sailor 4300 and Thales’ VesseLink include three dedicated voice channels, embedded wifi access points, multi-user capacity enabling up to 12 connected devices and application-enabled functionality for Android and iOS devices.