Cruising World

SAILOR-FRIENDLY VSAT

- —David Schmidt

Satellite-communicat­ions systems are great for accessing the internet and staying connected to family, friends and business while cruising far-flung places. The trouble for most sailors is that very small aperture terminals—the dome antennas needed for satellite access—typically require rack-mounted belowdecks equipment and AC power. Until now. KVH’S new Tracphone V30 ($11,995) draws 10 to 36 volts of DC power and employs a small belowdecks VSAT hub that’s roughly the size of an at-home Wi-fi router, making it an easy fit aboard a wide range of cruising sailboats.

The Tracphone V30’s radome is 15.5 inches wide by 17.6 inches high and weighs a little more than 23 pounds; inside, there’s a stabilized antenna. Once installed and networked, it transmits data at speeds up to 2 Mbps and downloads it at up to 6 Mbps using Ku-band frequencie­s on KVH’S proprietar­y mini-vsat Broadbands­m network.

“When we started the Tracphone V30 project, the number-one request was for DC power,” says Robert Balog, KVH’S chief technology officer.

The Tracphone V30 is ideal for making phone calls, running enterprise software, downloadin­g GRIB files, web surfing, streaming high-definition content, and participat­ing in Zoom video calls. However, as with all KVH VSAT systems, it works only on the company’s network. While this eliminates comparison shopping for airtime plans, it also means that a single tech-support call can tackle both hardware and network issues.

“We offer two types of airtime plans: metered and unlimited,” says Jim George, KVH’S director of satellite sales, adding that most customers select unlimited plans. “Metered plans cost 50 cents per megabyte and are for customers who use their boats on the weekends.” KVH’S unlimited plans cost between $150 and $3,000 a month and deliver between 200 megabytes to 10 gigabytes of high-speed data (see KVH’S website for details). Once a customer hits their data limit, the system downshifts to slower speeds, and unlimited-plan customers aren’t charged for slower-speed data use. Customers can change or suspend their metered or unlimited data plans at any time. Finally, the Tracphone V30’s single cable makes for easy DIY installati­ons.

So, if you’re interested in making longer cruises but need to stay connected, the Tracphone V30 could be ideal, especially if belowdecks space and AC power are in short supply.

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