Intellian tested its C700 antenna and BDU in heavy rain to demonstrate its resilience and sustained connectivity in harsh weather and high seas
Intellian Technologies demonstrated the consistent connectivity of its new C700 terminal for maritime communications over Iridium’s L-band low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation in harsh weather and high waves.
It introduced this solid-state antenna and below-deck unit (BDU) in October 2020 and tested its performance in monsoon-like rain in southeast Asia.
Intellian’s C700 terminal can be used for primary vessel communications or as a companion to a VSAT system for redundancy. It connects with Iridium Certus services for uplink speeds of 352 kbps and downlink speeds of 704 kbps.
C700 comprises a phased array antenna and BDU weighing approximately 1.2 kg, as either a standalone bulkhead-mount unit or a 48-cm all-in-one rack-mounted version.
“Iridium Certus makes a perfect standalone L-band solution or VSAT companion, compensating for VSAT’s sensitivity to atmospheric interference with L-band’s resilience,” says Intellian vice president and general manager Jon Harrison.
“We carried out tests in Singapore, where you can get really heavy showers,” he explains. “Especially with Ka-band, you’ll see dropouts and Ku-band is also affected. But with L-band and the C700, rain-fade is minimal, and the system automatically compensates by increasing the gain.”
C700 comes with built-in assets including a modem, router, firewall, wireless access point, analogue terminal adapter (ATA) and a private automatic branch exchange (PABX), which supports free intercom.
Intellian designed C700 for strong low-elevation-angle performance, which is a direct consequence of the antenna’s radical 12-element solid-state design. This eliminates moving parts and the inherent directionality of a dish antenna, making this unit able to locate and instantly track all visible satellites.
“The 12-patch configuration makes C700 able to track satellites more effectively,” says Mr Harrison. “The increased number of patches allows C700 to hold on to a satellite while the idle elements or patches scan for other visible satellites, providing consistently stable and seamless connectivity, not just at beam-to-beam handover, but also from satellite-to-satellite.”
He says C700 requires no scheduled maintenance and is impervious to jarring and extreme motions experienced on fast boats, or smaller vessels pitching and rolling in heavy seas.
C700 was designed to simultaneously support three low-latency phone lines with an improved voice codec, said to produce voice quality akin to cellular services.
“The built-in PABX and ATA mean crew can plug in any telephone system they already have on board, so they do not have to change the way they would normally work,” says Mr Harrison.
C700 comes with an integrated AptusLX web interface for intuitive and easy navigation. “There is no commissioning and no options files to load as the whole system is integrated,” he continues. “Operators just plug in an Iridium Certus card, which will have been activated by a service provider.”
AptusLX enables remote access to the C700 terminal, enabling service providers to act upon data derived from auto-diagnostic tools for monitoring and troubleshooting.
Future developments for C700 will be the addition of Iridium’s Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) service. “Our solid-state L-band antennas are a perfect conduit for safety-related transmissions,” says Mr Harrison, “and GMDSS approval for the C700 is well in hand.”
Iridium vice president and general manager of maritime Wouter Deknopper says vessel owners should consider investing in Certus terminals because of the fast L-band speeds available. “An antenna such as the C700 is definitely a very good investment right now because our recently upgraded network is set to deliver a reliable service for years to come,” he says. L-band communications is via Iridium’s new L-band network of 66 operational satellites and nine in-orbit spares. “We are using 21st-century technology, which allows us to provide the highest L-band data throughput available, with faster speeds and better voice quality,” says Mr Deknopper.
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