Vessel operators will get 176 kbps on the uplink and downlink using 0.7 kg antennas over Iridium Certus 200 L-band services
Owners of workboats and tugs will be able to access L-band satellite communications with smaller antennas through new hardware from Thales and services from Iridium.
These companies have partnered to deliver fast L-band connectivity for smaller commercial vessels in 2021. They are already testing Thales’ VesseLink 200 terminals over Iridium Certus – a global L-band communications network with coverage over the world’s poles.
Thales vice president for satellite communications solutions Brian Aziz introduced VesseLink 200 to vessel owners during a Riviera Maritime Media-hosted webinar* on 12 November.
He said VesseLink 200 will be available in Q1 2021 to operate over Iridium’s latest service class, Certus 200. This will offer bandwidth of 176 kbps on the uplink and downlink.
“VesseLink 200 has the same hardware, 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; 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 are also application interfaces, command sets for secure remote management by partners, and features 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.
The antenna weighs less than 0.7 kg, has a diameter of 12.5 cm and height of 17 cm.
Thales and Iridium have tested VesseLink 200 on vessels in different settings and use cases including upgrading existing Iridium Pilot with Certus 200 hardware; a conversion from Inmarsat Fleet One services; and using VesseLink 200 as a companion to VSAT.
Connectivity through VesseLink 200 is from Iridium’s low Earth orbit (LEO) Next satellite constellation which uses 66 interconnected LEO satellites with in-orbit spares, providing pole-to-pole coverage which is more important as the northern sea routes open to year-round towage.
During 2020, there were two Iridium Certus services – 350 and 700 – providing bandwidth of 352 kbps and 704 kbps respectively.
“New service classes are coming in 2021 to open new markets,” said Iridium Communications vice president and general manager for maritime Wouter 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 with Certus as a complement,” said Mr Deknopper. “Based on these factors and requests from the market, we are expanding the hardware options,” he said.
“Having just launched Certus 700, we decided to focus on lower speed classes as opportunities are very big in the market for under-connected vessels – there are so many out there,” Mr Deknopper explained.
Certus 200 can be used for email, messaging and internet access on vessels, for internet of things connectivity, for remote monitoring and for navigational information updates.
It can be used for regulatory compliance, secure communications, electronic logs and from 2021, for the Global Maritime Distress & Safety System (GMDSS) as Iridium works to develop these solutions with its partners. Thales VesseLink terminals will be enhanced to include GMDSS in 2021.
Brian Aziz (Thales) and Wouter Deknopper (Iridium) were panellists at Riviera’s Thales VesseLink 200: accessing Certus with a smaller antenna webinar on 12 November