Maritime Internet - Global VSAT
Once you are out of the reach of a terrestrial internet connection you will have to revert to a satellite link to keep you connected.
How to choose a Global VSAT System
Satellite connections come in different forms and prices and unless you are a satellite professional we recommend to ask for advice before making a decision. This is an ever changing market and it can save or cost you a lot of money and headaches.
The most important aspect is to think about what you want to achieve with your connection and what you need in terms of bandwidth/speed to achieve this (antenna, modems, routers, firewalls, switches, ...).
If you need coverage outside the normal shipping lanes and your vessel is large enough you might have to consider Maritime C-Band VSAT antennas. These antennas are considerably larger than the more common Ku-Band version but will offer a much larger geographical coverage and will also be less susceptible to rain.
In case regular Ku-Band coverage is sufficient then you will need to choose a Maritime Ku-Band VSAT antenna and decide on which kind of platform you will make it work.
One of the most widespread systems on which shared Ku-Band or C-Band connectivity is offered is the iDirect Evolution Platform. This platform will allow you to achieve internet speeds of several Mbps. These iDirect connections are mostly shared, which means that you will share the connection with other ships but only pay a part of the actual cost of the satellite connection.
If you require specific dedicated connectivity with a certain bandwidth guaranteed at all times, then you should consider a dedicated connection. These can be set up using either the iDirect or Comtech platform depending on the required performance/speed.
Choosing the Satellite Antenna
One of the most important parts of your satellite internet connection will be the maritime stabilized satellite antenna. This antenna will track a satellite with pinpoint accuracy regardless of the motions of the ship it is mounted on.
When speaking of antenna size in the VSAT world we always refer to the diameter of the parabolic dish. The radome which protects the antenna from wind and rain does not count as its size when choosing the antenna size
Most antenna suppliers will suggest that a 100cm antenna is sufficient for global coverage, and some will even say 85cm. These antenna sizes might work but with less spare capacity than a larger one.
As a rule of thumb always buy the largest antenna you can afford and place on your ship. If you can install a 120cm antenna, then do so. Size matters and will allow you to have better reception and your connection could cost you less than with a smaller antenna (especially when using regional beams).
The Ku-Band BUC (Block Up Converter) is your antenna's transmitter. It will take the signal from your modem and transmit it to the satellite. An interesting fact is that achievable speed is proportional to the power of the transmitter and size of the antenna. If you have a small transmitter you will not be able to achieve high upload speeds. Whereas 4W BUCs were considered mainstream a few years ago 8W BUCs are considered today's standard and 16W BUCs are sometimes recommended if higher transmission speeds need to be achieved. Your antenna can accommodate most BUC sizes