A combination of low Earth orbit constellations will deliver capacity, resiliency, and high-speed connectivity to shipping
Iridium Communications and OneWeb will collaborate on a global satellite service to boost connectivity to maritime users.
They signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to work together toward a combined service using low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites.
This will lead to bundling of satellite communications using Iridium Certus L-band coverage and OneWeb’s Ku-band service.
Iridium introduced Certus this year using its second-generation LEO constellation, while OneWeb has just started building its network and launched its first satellites this year.
This MOU is the first time LEO operators have collaborated to deliver services in L-band and Ku-band. It could result in Iridium-OneWeb companion packages and opens the market for terminal manufacturers of dual-band antennas. Maritime hardware could be manufactured to provide both L-band and Ku-band connectivity over the combined constellation.
Both satellite providers consider a combined service will improve connectivity to maritime users, such as fisheries* and workboats, and for maritime incident response.
Due to the physics associated with L-band and Ku-band spectrum, the two constellations come with different yet complementary attributes.
OneWeb’s network will deliver high-speed broadband connectivity to transfer large amounts of data worldwide for maritime fleets.
It launched its first six satellites in February this year and demonstrated broadband speeds of 400 Mbps and an average latency of 32 milliseconds.
OneWeb will begin monthly launches of more than 30 satellites per month starting in December 2019 enabling OneWeb to provide partial service in Q4 2020 and global coverage in 2021.
Iridium’s Next cross-linked satellite constellation provides seamless global connectivity, with weather resilient L-band user terminals, to shipping. Iridium Certus was introduced in January 2019 with higher bandwidth than its existing OpenPort service.
Combining these constellations will deliver capacity, resiliency, and high-speed connectivity.
This partnership will compete with existing constellations operated by Inmarsat, Intelsat, SES and other VSAT services.
*Fishing is a huge potential market for connectivity. Geeks without Frontiers founder and executive director John Morris said there were around 64M fishing vessels worldwide with the majority less than 30 tonnes and not connected.
Mr Morris said these vessels typically have crew of 4-8 seafarers with low data applications for navigation and weather forecasts and voice over VHF.
He thinks there are incentives to fishing vessel owners to invest in better satellite communications – such as reporting catches and selling them before returning to shore and crew communications.
Mr Morris was speaking at VSAT Global and Next Generation Satellite Applications, London, 19 September 2019