|Online at Cruising Speed|
Developments in mobile satellite communications are ramping up onboard Internet access.
By Tim Clark — March 2002
American boaters crave convenience, and we set the benchmark high: We judge onboard ease in relation to the level we enjoy at home. Satcom systems developers KVH Industries and Sea Tel are responding to that craving with new solutions for Internet access at sea that may equal or even surpass the standards we’re accustomed to ashore.
Most of the existing, at-all-affordable, satellite communications systems with data-transfer and therefore Internet capabilities fall well short of what we’re used to shore-side in one important respect: speed. Inmarsat’s wide-ranging Mini-M service transfers data at just 2.4 kilobytes per second (kbps). This rate is fine for phone and fax, but painfully slow–and at around $2.25 per minute, expensive–for Web surfing, especially since most of us are accustomed to at least 56 kbps at home. Motient’s MarineSat boasts a rate of 4.8 kbps, and Globalstar boosts it to 9.6, but when it comes to Internet browsing, these speeds remain inadequate. KVH’s and SeaTel’s new offerings aim to blow such pokey speeds right out of the water.
The two companies are using significantly different technological approaches to achieve their similar goals. KVH has teamed up with satellite Internet provider DirecPC to provide a maritime broadband satellite Internet service that, at downlink speeds up to a whopping 400 kbps, rivals the fastest rates available anywhere. The investment in hardware necessary to take advantage of the service is considerable. To track a satellite broadcasting DirecPC’s signal, you’ll need one of KVH’s 18- to 24-inch Digital Video Broadcast (DVB)-compatible TracVision antennas, which start at around $3,500. Additionally, yachts will have to be equipped with KVH’s new TracNet Mobile Internet Server, which for $5,995 includes satellite and cellular modems, an 802.11b wireless connection for onboard PCs and laptops, and a high-volume hard drive for storing data broadcasts.
This article originally appeared in the February 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.