The good news is that the advent of Inmarsat's FleetBroadband in November means that a yacht cruising almost anywhere from the U.S. West Coast eastward to Australia can get a decent Internet connection ("up to" 284 kbps) and make clear phone calls with a stabilized antenna dome just a foot high—even at the same time! And the service will become nearly global when Inmarsat launches its third and final fourth-generation I-4 satellite by the end of this year, a promise we can probably count on because the firm has such a sterling reputation for reliability. The bad news? This little FB250 dome costs $12,995—$500 more for the 19-inch size to match a KVH M5 TV dome—and the data coming over the always-on Internet connection is $13.50 per megabyte unless you're a "high-volume" user (defined, yikes, as $3,300/month minimum for a year). KVH is also offering the 432-kbps FB500 dome, which can be had in 27-inch M7 or 39-inch M9 sizes, $19,995 and $22,495 respectively. All systems include a versatile below-decks terminal and a high-tech IP handset. FleetBroadband will be similarly offered by other companies, and there's a lot more to say about its features, not to mention the complex but evolving business/tech story behind its pricing...but that will have to wait for a future column.
This article originally appeared in the January 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.