High-throughput satellites and smaller antennas enable workboats, tugs, leisure craft and fishing boats to access VSAT
VSAT antennas have been developed to enable owners from wider markets to access online applications and improve crew communications.
Intellian Technologies has introduced its smallest VSAT antenna for vessels with limited space for communications equipment. The South Korea-headquartered manufacturer unveiled its v45C antenna for workboats, tugs, leisure craft, fishing boats, small commercial and government vessels in February 2021.
This 45-cm diameter antenna uses similar technology to Intellian’s v60E VSAT, with a 60-cm reflector, says Intellian vice president and general manager for global partnerships and EMEA business development Jon Harrison.
“These compact v45C and v60E antennas use elements of our flagship NX series VSAT antenna designs and share many of the same features,” he tells Maritime Optimisation & Communications, “notably radio frequency (RF) performance, single-cable, dome-on connection and our intuitive AptusNX management and commissioning software.”
With smaller antennas, operators can implement internet of things (IoT) and fleet management programs, while providing crew with internet access.
“By reducing the antenna size, we open up VSAT connectivity to wider markets,” says Mr Harrison.
“These small antennas are made possible by advancements in both antenna and satellite technology.” They can link with high-throughput satellite (HTS) constellations commissioned in the past five years.
“HTSs are being launched with steerable beams, which can concentrate power in much smaller areas on demand, making a smaller dish sufficient to deliver the required connectivity,” Mr Harrison explains.
“Our new v45C has only been made possible by advancements in Ku-band and Ka-band antenna technology and by the new HTS satellites, so this is a trend we expect to continue.”
He says Intellian’s v60E has been enthusiastically received, with vessel operators ordering this hardware from the small commercial and fishing sectors. This can be paired with Intellian’s C700 Iridium Certus terminal to add redundancy. C700 is a 12-panel phased array antenna with RF performance for L-band and low-elevation-angle efficiency.
“Significant uptake of the v60E demonstrates that the small commercial, fishing and leisure markets are hungry for small VSAT solutions,” comments Mr Harrison.
These VSAT systems connect with geostationary orbit satellites in Ku-band and Ka-band. Intellian has developed dual-band and tri-band hardware for connecting with medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites, such as O3b operated by SES. The existing generation can also operate with the new low Earth orbit (LEO) constellations being implemented by OneWeb, Amazon and Elon Musk’s Starlink.
“Many of our antennas are multi-orbit, allowing them to take advantage of upcoming MEO and LEO VSAT networks as well as the existing geostationary provision,” says Mr Harrison. “Our dual- and tri-band antennas extend this flexibility even further, allowing a single antenna compatibility with multiple networks. This can be of vital importance in maintaining connectivity by providing redundancy across multiple satellite networks.”
Vessel operators can select their service provider and constellations using these multi-band antennas “and take advantage of future network developments”.
“Our commitment to future-proofed technology is the key driver behind our product development,” says Mr Harrison. “We make our products compatible with existing satellite technologies and ready for next-generation solutions.”
This means vessel operators can benefit from the latest advancements in network provision without having to carry out expensive, time-consuming hardware upgrades.
“It is no secret that the near future will see a proliferation of LEO and MEO networks,” says Mr Harrison. “We are ready for them with our NX-series antennas. The lower powers required to transmit to and receive from satellites, which are physically much closer to the antenna, allows for more portable terminal designs – something we have already achieved with our land-based terminals.”
Intellian has a US$73M contract to develop and supply compact user terminals for OneWeb’s satellite communications. Through this agreement, Intellian will mass produce terminals for uplink and downlink communications with OneWeb’s LEO satellite network. The easy-to-install antennas will offer high bandwidth, low latency connectivity over this new generation of satellites. The first of these terminals could be unveiled later this year, ready for commercial installations in 2022.
On the other end of the scale, Intellian was granted consent from the Brazilian National Telecommunications Agency, Anatel, to use its larger hardware in the Brazilian offshore energy industry. This approval, in January this year, covers 2.4-m diameter antennas v240MT, v240M2 and 1.5-m v150NX VSAT.
Intellian v240MT antenna combines C, Ku and Ka band communications on a single reflector, enabling automatic switching between all three bands over geostationary and MEO satellites. v150NX antenna works across multiple orbits and can operated on Ku-band or Ka-band.
“We ensure we have a suitable solution for everyone, from the v240MT which can ensure the best possible service for cruise operators and offshore energy, right through to v45C, offering a compact solution for owners of small vessels which may not have space for a larger antenna,” says Mr Harrison.
Antennas developed for new constellations
Satellite constellation operators are working with manufacturers and authorities to develop maritime terminals for VSAT services.
Viasat has created a Ka-band satellite network with its ViaSat-2 and partnered with Cobham Satcom to provide terminals for bandwidth of more than 25 Mbps and unlimited data. ViaSat-2 has coverage along US coastlines, within the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Coming soon will be ViaSat-3, a three-satellite global constellation for high-speed broadband on vessels.
Alphatron Marine and Cobham Satcom signed a Certified Service Center contract in March 2021, which means Alphatron is joining the Service 2.0 network as one of the preferred service suppliers in the Netherlands and Belgium.
Shipping companies using the Service 2.0 network can get immediate access to all the relevant spare parts, support and information. It can be assured technicians had access to all relevant training before going on board.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has applied to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a licence to operate terminals connected to its Starlink network on ships. Submitted on 5 March, it is seeking a blanket licence covering end-user earth stations for deployment for vessels, vehicles and aircraft. For vessels, this is for operation in US territorial waters and throughout international waters worldwide. Starlink has more than 1,100 satellites in orbit and introduced laser crosslink technology this year.
In February, Cobham Satcom appointed Tototheo Maritime as a maritime technology and services provider in Greece. Tototheo was already the exclusive authorised agent and service partner for Cobham in Cyprus, so this agreement expands this co-operation into the Greek market.
South Korean manufacturer KNS secured approval for its Z5MK4-Ka VSAT for use over Telenor Satellite’s Thor 7 high-throughput satellite and Anker maritime service. This is a 60-cm antenna to link with an iDirect Velocity modem for bandwidth of 20 Mbps up and 3 Mbps down, or with a Dialog modem for 50/10 Mbps.
It can be equipped with either a standard 5W block up converter (BUC) or an optional 10W BUC. KNS said it was designed for better accuracy, higher tracking performance, easier monitoring and control.
In February, KNS unveiled M4M, its first submarine VSAT antenna with a 40-cm diameter. M4M supports underwater operations for satellite communications and has a waterproof radome, which can endure 70-bar hydraulic pressure.
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