Always-on offshore high-speed Internet just became possible on yachts well under mega size. KVH's new TracPhone V7 system claims solid broadband speeds previously only possible with a VSAT antenna measuring one meter (about three feet) or more, though its 26-inch-wide dome is an astounding 85 percent smaller in volume. It's also 65 percent smaller than a typical Inmarsat Fleet 77 dome, whose performance is slower (even if it does cover more ocean). For starters KVH's Mini-VSAT Broadband service will offer a variety of data plans, plus VoIP phone calls, over an area that includes much of the Americas and Europe as well as the North Atlantic shipping lanes. Costs are also smaller, relatively speaking, like $5 per megabyte at 512 Kbps-up/1024-down versus $32 for 128/128 F77 service, and monthly plans can cut that in half. The V7 hardware itself is $33,000 and is said to work seamlessly even as you switch continental base stations. There are two partners and a lot of innovative technology behind the V7 system and Mini-VSAT service, but a customer only has to deal with KVH. The company, incidentally, does intend to offer Inmarsat Marine BGAN when it soon becomes available but notes that while it, too, will support high speed with a modest dome, and wide coverage, its data rates are expected to be significantly higher than Mini-VSAT's.
This article originally appeared in the October 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.