Thales and Iridium are partnering to deliver fast L-band connectivity for smaller commercial vessels in 2021, experts explained during Riviera’s Thales VesseLink 200: accessing Certus with a smaller antenna webinar
This event was held in partnership with Thales on 12 November with input from a satellite constellation owner, terminal hardware manufacturer and shipowner.
Panellists included Iridium Communications vice president and general manager for maritime Wouter Deknopper, Thales vice president for satellite communications solutions Brian Aziz and Spliethoff group director of IT Peter Van de Venne.
Mr Aziz said Thales’ VesseLink 200 will operate over Iridium’s latest service class, Certus 200, offering 176 kbps on the uplink and downlink.
“VesseLink 200 is our new product, available from the start of 2021, with the same hardware, same features and robustness as our other VesseLink terminals, but with a much smaller antenna,” he said.
These features include three dedicated high-quality voice lines; a built-in management portal for configuration and monitoring; traffic limiter with white- and black-listing capabilities; soft phone application for Android and iOS operating systems; preferred routeing and dynamic switching to VSAT.
There is also an application interface and command set for secure remote management by partners and a feature for advanced voice configuration and calling options.
“There is 100% global satellite coverage and low latency for critical data and voice communications,” Mr Aziz added.
This comes from Iridium’s low Earth orbit (LEO) Next satellite constellation Mr Deknopper said had provided connectivity to maritime users for more than two years.
There are currently two Iridium Certus services – 350 and 700 – providing bandwidth of 352 kbps and 704 kbps respectively.
Next consists of 66 interconnected LEO satellites with in-orbit spares providing pole-to-pole coverage, which becomes more important as northern sea routes open to merchant shipping year-round.
“New service classes are coming in 2021 to open new markets,” said Mr Deknopper. “Certus 200 is the successor to Iridium Pilot. Thales VesseLink is 75% smaller, 90% lighter, and 25% cheaper to purchase.”
There are around 10,000 vessels sailing globally with Iridium Pilot on board. Other important markets for Certus 200 will be fisheries, workboats, tugs, yachts, sailing boats and coastal shipping. This service can also be a VSAT companion.
“We have seen tremendous VSAT growth and Certus as a complement,” said Mr Deknopper. “Based on these factors and requests from the market, we are expanding the hardware options,” he said.
“We have just launched Certus 700 and made a decision to focus our attention on lower speed classes as there are huge opportunities in the market for under-connected vessels – there are so many out there,” Mr Deknopper explained.
Mr Van de Venne explained how Spliethoff had used Iridium Certus since December 2017 when it installed the first Thales terminal on its vessel Suomigracht. After more than a year of testing, Spliethoff installed its first productional Certus on vessel Poolgracht in March 2019.
“After installing Certus on two vessels this month, we now have Certus on nine vessels,” said Mr Van de Venne. “We like the true worldwide coverage, with projects in the north and south poles, so this is added value when combined with VSAT, we can switch between providers,” he said.
Spliethoff vessels obtain speeds of 352 kbps uplink and 704 kbps on the downlink over Iridium Certus.
There was overwhelming support from the attendees of the webinar on the potential use of Iridium Certus 200, with 92% agreeing they would consider installing Certus 200 as a secondary terminal on board their vessels.
In addition, 94% of attendees in the survey said they knew about the Thales L-band solution for maritime.
There was also strong support for selecting different terminals for vessel communications with 81% of attendees agreeing with Mr Van de Venne’s comment that “size does matter” as it has an impact their buying decision.
The remainder of the webinar’s survey questions and results can be found at the bottom of the article.
Panellists on Riviera’s Thales VesseLink 200: accessing Certus with a smaller antenna webinar, held in association with Thales, included Iridium Communications vice president and general manager for maritime Wouter Deknopper, Thales vice president for satellite communications solutions Brian Aziz and Spliethoff group director of IT Peter Van de Venne
As a VSAT companion, how important is bandwidth throughput?
Rate 1: not important – 0%
Rate 2: slightly important – 20%
Rate 3: important – 40%
Rate 4: very important – 33%
Rate 5: most important – 7%
As a user of internet connectivity, what are you currently using? (multiple answers are possible):
VSAT Ka + FBB [FleetBroadband] backup – 22%
VSAT Ku + FBB backup – 30%
VSAT Ku + IOP [Iridium OpenPort] backup – 30%
VSAT Ku + Certus backup – 26%
VSAT Ka/Ku without backup – 22%
Other – 48%
What is your current use of API interfaces? (one answer only):
I am already using it – 22%
I plan to start using it – 16%
I am investigating the options – 18%
I do not know yet – 38%
I will not use it – 6%