Yachting - - DEPARTMENTS - by david sch­midt

KVH has rolled out its TracPhone LTE-1, giv­ing coastal cruis­ers light­ning-fast Wi-Fi con­nec­tiv­ity as far as 20 miles off­shore.

NEARSHORE NET­WORK­ING KVH’s TracPhone LTE-1 of­fers fast con­nec­tiv­ity for coastal cruis­ers.

The mas­sive hump­back whale sur­facedand­non­cha­lantly swam to­ward South­ern Cross, my dad’s J/44, off the port bow, lack­adaisi­cally pass­ing within a few feet. Dad’s boat, which weighs more than 11 tons, felt ut­terly mi­nus­cule. Cam­eras ma­te­ri­al­ized as we killed the en­gine on that wind­less Au­gust morn­ing off Province­town, Mas­sachusetts. This was in 2006, so we had no way of shar­ing our im­ages in­stantly, and by the time our enor­mous friend grew bored and dove deep, leav­ing us to hoist sail in a thinly gath­er­ing breeze, our cell­phones had gone dark. This whale’s tale would have to stay among friends and fam­ily, at least un­til we crossed the Gulf of Maine and joined South­west Har­bor’s cel­lu­lar net­work. ¶ The vast ma­jor­ity of to­day’s pho­to­graphs are cap­tured us­ing smart­phones with em­bed­ded cel­lu­lar and Wi-Fi modems, al­low­ing im­ages to be shared or cloud-banked — pro­vided that their mod­est an­ten­nas can har­ness a sig­nal. Con­tem­po­rary U.S. coast­lines have fairly ro­bust cel­lu­lar ser­vice; how­ever, smart­phones use line-of-sight an­ten­nas that typ­i­cally reach only 3 to 5 miles off­shore, forc­ing data-hun­gry boaters to use their satel­lite-com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment once land van­ishes astern. ¶ While KVH’s TracPhone LTE-1 isn’t a global com­mu­ni­ca­tions so­lu­tion, it pro­vides su­per-fast, nearshore con­nec­tiv­ity over LTE wire­less net­works for a frac­tion of the cost of a sat­com sys­tem, in terms of both hard­ware and data. And it can be net­worked with KVH’s mini-VSAT Broad­band satel­lite-com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment to de­liver cost-ef­fec­tive data based on a yacht’s lo­ca­tion and ac­cess to net­work cov­er­age. ¶ “We see the TracPhone LTE-1 as ideal for sail­boats and power­boats that are 25 feet and up that spend a ma­jor­ity of their time within 20 miles of the coast,” says Shawn Ben­nett, KVH’s TracVi­sion prod­uct-line man­ager. ¶ The KVH TracPhone LTE-1 comes bun­dled in a 13.5-by-13.3-inch dome de­liv­er­ing LTE re­cep­tion, which it can share with as many as 30 con­nected wire­less de­vices us­ing its built-in Wi-Fi router up to 20 miles off­shore of the U.S. coast­line. This is ac­com­plished via the Wi-Fi router, a GPS re­ceiver and the dome’s en­closed 2x2 mul­ti­ple in­put, mul­ti­ple out­put (MIMO), high-gain LTE-A an­tenna ar­ray, al­low­ing the sys­tem to op­er­ate on LTE-A, LTE, HSPA+ and 3G cel­lu­lar net­works. A 50-foot power and data cable runs to a belowdecks power-over-Eth­er­net in­jec­tor with an Eth­er­net out­put port. ¶ Once con­nected to an on­shore cel­lu­lar net­work, users can stream high-def­i­ni­tion video, live TV and mu­sic; post to so­cial me­dia; check email and use Wi-Fi to send and re­ceive voice calls. ¶ “They can use this cel­lu­lar-based prod­uct to sim­ply stay in touch, stream a fa­vorite show when at an­chor, or en­joy the peace of mind of hav­ing re­li­able con­nec­tiv­ity when cruis­ing overnight,” Ben­nett says. ¶ Data trans­mis­sions are sent over en­crypted cel­lu­lar net­works to help en­sure user pri­vacy. In ad­di­tion, Ben­nett says, “the high-gain dual MIMO LTE-A an­tenna ar­ray in­side the dome pro­vides sig­nif­i­cantly ex­tended range com­pared to cell­phones.” ¶ Here, as with all an­tenna-based com­mu­ni­ca­tions, the higher an an­tenna can be mounted, the bet­ter. KVH’s specs as­sume 20 feet of free­board sep­a­rat­ing the an­ten­nas from the brine, as well as an un­ob­structed li­neof-sight view to­ward the near­est cell tower. ¶ In terms of per­for­mance met­rics, the TracPhone LTE-1 sup­ports data down­load speeds of up to 100 megabits per sec­ond and up­load speeds of 50 Mbps. ¶ “The TracPhone LTE-1 har­nesses the power of the LTE-A net­works, which de­liver those speeds to data-hun­gry cus­tomers on land,” Ben­nett says. But “as on land, max­i­mum data speeds are af­fected by many fac­tors, the big­gest be­ing net­work con­ges­tion.” ¶ For ex­am­ple, cel­lu­lar traf­fic can get con­gested at pop­u­lar mari­nas on prime sum­mer week­ends, es­pe­cially as the same land-based cel­lu­lar tow­ers are ser­vic­ing myr­iad ter­res­trial-based users. ¶ “If there’s a sit­u­a­tion with mul­ti­ple de­vices and ev­ery­one stream­ing a movie on sev­eral boats in one area, there will be some im­pact,” he adds. “That said, cel­lu­lar car­ri­ers are adding ca­pac­ity to their net­works all the time to meet de­mand on land, and boaters will only ben­e­fit from that ad­di­tional ca­pac­ity.” ¶ KVH’s LTE-1 works with two ma­jor, but undis­closed, U.S. cel­lu­lar car­ri­ers’ net­works that pri­mar­ily op­er­ate on LTE-A and LTE com­mu­ni­ca­tion stan­dards; how­ever, it does this us­ing a sin­gle SIM card, mean­ing that it can only be con­nected to a sin­gle net­work at once. ¶ “The TracPhone LTE-1 is con­fig­ured to use dual cel­lu­lar car­ri­ers and to au­to­mat­i­cally switch be­tween those car­ri­ers to en­sure


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