The mini-VSAT Broadband service from KVH Industries, is now the most widely used maritime VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) service in the world, according to a report just published by Northern Sky Research.
“With an estimated count of nearly 30% of the units in the market, KVH has taken the low-ARPU/high-volume market by storm,” reported NSR analyst Claude Rousseau, referring to the Ku-band maritime VSAT market. According to the NSR report, KVH’s mini-VSAT Broadband service accounted for nearly 30% of all Ku-band maritime VSAT units and more than 20% of all activated maritime VSAT units of all frequencies.
Maritime VSAT services use powerful FSS (Fixed Satellite Service) C-, Ku-, and Ka-band satellites, rather than dedicated maritime satellites, such as Inmarsat, to provide two-way voice and data connectivity to ships at sea.
Prior to the introduction of VSAT into the maritime markets, vessels were limited to MSS (Mobile Satellite Service) L-band satellites, which used lower frequencies that could be received by relatively small and low-priced onboard terminals, but had prohibitively expensive airtime, that could cost customers $20 per megabyte.
KVH says their secret sauce is their CDMA modulation which allows smaller terminals without interfering with adjacent satellites. Over the past 4 years, KVH has taken advantage of new commercial satellite coverage over the oceans to create a seamless web of multimegabit service, leasing capacity on normally fixed service satellites. Fourteen Ku-band satellite transponders are already online, creating one of the widest Ku-band networks in the industry.
The legacy market for maritime communications is the 1.6 GHz L-band (Inmarsat, Iridium, Globalstar, Thuraya) and it will continue to be the core base of users, says researcher, Northern Sky Communications, despite the impact of High Throughput Satellites which are expected to make available huge gains in satellite capacity.
Inmarsat’s Global Xpress is their next generation of maritime satellites. It will use Ka-band Inmarsat-5 satellites beginning in 2014, offering mobile broadband speeds of 50Mbps to terminals as small as 60cms, and up to 10Mbps on terminals as small as 20cm.
Three Inmarsat-5 satellites will operate in the Ka-band (20–30 GHz). Each Inmarsat-5 will carry a payload of 89 small Ka-band beams which combined will offer global Ka-band spot coverage. There are plans to offer high-speed inflight broadband on airliners. The move to “High Throughput Satellites” will be key to success in broadband access around the world, says Northern Sky.
Satellites like ViaSat’s ViaSat-1, EchoStar’s Jupiter and Europe’s KASat, will dramatically increase satellite capacity in the next few years, but the Ku band terminals will still dominate, says Northern Star Research. High capacity Ka-band satellites will use spot beams focused on North America and Europe, respectively, so they won’t be much good over the open ocean.
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