Developing Crew Internet Access
The new generation of seafarers is born with a mobile in hand
Implementing internet cafés
Setting up a VSAT system requires knowing and working with a number of vendors to make the system complete. While previously some services have been generally based on usage charges ( the more you use the more you pay), VSAT providers usually charge a flat monthly fee for unlimited internet access, which can range from $ 2,000 to more than $ 5,000 per month depending on the speed, and may also include the hardware. VSAT offers a number of advantages at a fixed monthly rate, but unfortunately for the Ku band antennas these only work within limited coverage areas. Areas including the southern Atlantic and southern Pacific remain without Ku coverage. So far only if you installed a C band 2.4m antenna, like the ones that are used on the passenger vessels, will you be able to have an Inmarsat like global coverage. Ku- VSAT satellites, which until now are most interesting to our community, cover the most well travelled areas of the globe, but there are regions where the service is unavailable. Inmarsat has better coverage, but does not cover the poles. Iridium Satellite, with its Pilot provides pole to pole coverage, but does not provide the high bandwidth available from Ku or L band systems. The Iridium Pilot link provides three separate phone lines and a data channel configurable from 9.6 to 128 Kbps. But users are charged a permegabyte fee, or a monthly fee with data limits, and the scalable internet connection isn't as fast as VSAT or Inmarsat. Three Ka band satellites, using a new network, will deliver speeds of up to 50 megabits per second ( Mbps) to our vessels. Operations are expected to start in 2014 to support a next generation global service, appropriately named Global Xpress.
All You Can Eat
Very Large Allowance ( VLA) or All You Can Eat ( AYCE) are the immediate Inmarsat responses to the flat rates from VSAT competition. Based on our vessel’s usage, we can see that today a ship can satisfy its operational and crew requirements within the range of 10 to 15Gbyte per month. This may include crew usage of internet browsing, VoIP, instant messaging and social networking. The Inmarsat AYCE is a managed service, i. e. when usage reaches the upper limits of the plan, the company would start reducing speed to preserve the remainder of the plan until month’s end. This would allow users to continue their light browsing, email, and messaging but would limit streaming usage like video and audio conferencing, Skype and other bandwidth hogging applications. During our trials we tested both a VSAT V7 from KVH and Inmarsat VLA with FB500. We can report that both systems have performed satisfactorily, and both crew and operations have benefited from this experience. With both systems we are able to improve enterprise communication with the vessel through unified communications, streamlined vessel operations, and offered the crew unlimited internet access in both trials.