Three product launches in the last three months will give shipowners in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East more options for vessel and seafarer connectivity, and voice services.
UAE- and France-headquartered companies have introduced the services, one covering VSAT connectivity for ships, another for phone calls over satellite and a third for managing seafarer communications and other welfare support services.
Owners are challenged to provide better crew welfare solutions to their seafarers on commercial ships, offshore support vessels and workboats throughout these regions at lower costs.
They need to offer crew welfare services including broadband connectivity and telephony from more remote maritime locations on cheaper tariffs and incorporate new communications technology.
Which is why Al Yah Satellite Communications (Yahsat) teamed up with its subsidiary Thuraya Telecommunications and France-based IEC Telecom Group to create a crew welfare service, a VSAT communications solution and a smartphone that operates over satellite.
The latest of these services to be launched is the X5-Touch satellite smartphone, which will be available from early December. This is the first mobile phone that runs on the Android operating system and can also connect direct to Thuraya’s L-band satellites.
X5-Touch has dual-mode and dual-SIM capabilities as it can use 2G, 3G, or 4G networks (on land and off coastal stations) and can seamlessly transfer to satellite connectivity, linking to satellites from 160 countries across Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.
It has a 5.2-in high definition display and is a rugged phone that meets the IP67 standard for full dust and water protection and complies with military standards. X5-Touch has wifi and Bluetooth connectivity to onboard networks and local devices.
Seafarers can bring X5-Touch phones on vessels for their own use or use IEC Welfare, which provides crew with high-quality, on-demand data access for social networking, online browsing and messaging.
These data services are available using crew scratchcards that can be purchased individually in 1, 5, or 10 GB data bundles, or can be provided by vessel operators as part of their social package.
IEC Welfare has applications for vessel owners to control welfare costs and access. There are smart budget control tools that deliver advanced online reporting on network usage. Owners can use these to control crew credit allocation.
“Connectivity can gather vital data across a wide range of applications, offering companies opportunities to improve operating efficiencies, remove communication barriers and reduce operation costs”
There is also 24/7 customer support and secure corporate links plus operational benefits for owners from better communications, said IEC Telecom Middle East managing director Nabil Ben Soussia. “Connectivity can gather vital data across a wide range of applications, offering companies opportunities to improve operating efficiencies, remove communication barriers and reduce operation costs,” he said.
Yahsat and Thuraya introduced a new VSAT service for broadband communications and data connectivity for shipping in Q3 2018. Thuraya VSAT+ is an integrated platform that combines Ku-band VSAT and Thuraya L-band services over main regional merchant shipping routes, offshore regions and coastal marine areas, said Thuraya chief commercial officer Shawkat Ahmed.
“Thuraya VSAT+ transforms marine connectivity by increasing offshore bandwidth capabilities and caters to multiple applications including office-at-sea, crew welfare, cargo manifest and fleet operations,” he said.
Ship operators and captains can set up their maritime communication requirements using Thuraya VSAT+ flexible connectivity packages. As with other VSAT services, there is a fixed-pricing model that eliminates billing complexities while providing cost-saving options.
Hardware for Thuraya VSAT+ includes 1-m and 60-cm diameter antennas and iDirect modems. This platform includes a fall-back on to Thuraya’s L-band network via an Orion IP terminal. It also provides seafarers with a voice over IP service.
IEC Telecom boosts this VSAT connectivity with a suite of its own value-added services. These tools are for budget control, managing bandwidth volumes and setting consumption limits. Thuraya VSAT+ can be part of affordable crew welfare packages, with flexible tariff plans and regional coverage to support international operations.