4 steps to a better maritime communication system
With the ever increasing communication requirements it is becoming more and more difficult to make the right decision as to what you should be utilizing. In the article below we try to help you on your way to a better informed decision when choosing a maritime communication system.
1 – How Much
“How much data do you need and when do you need it?” This is by far the most difficult and impacting decision to make and it should be made wisely as the wrong choice can cost a lot and leave you with very little or no benefit.
Depending on the type of vessel you will have different requirements. Some vessels might have to transmit large amounts of gathered data by the beginning of the next day while others will want to watch HD NetTube and Youflix in several or many cabins at the same time.
The major three differences in the examples above are
- direction (upload vs. download)
- Real-Time vs. Non-Real-Time
- time of day (during the evening vs. overnight)
The first step is to determine how much bandwidth you will need. Ideally you should look at the bandwidth usage you currently have and see whether this is sufficient. With future bandwidth requirements in mond (doubles almost every 2 years) you need to keep this in mind when dimensioning your equipment.
If you do not have information on your current data usage then you can use our Bandwidth Calculator to find out how much bandwidth you would need by combining different application. For a more detailed result we recommend our Advanced Maritime Bandwidth Calculator
2 – Where?
You may never sail to Patagonia or the Polar Regions so determining where you will need what type of connection can greatly affect the cost of your internet connection. Little need to have VSAT internet on board an inland barge, or a State-of-the-Art 5G router on the Atlantic.
Regional satellite links can be less expensive and some beams are less expensive than others… check before you commit
Inland ships (barges, tugs, river-cruise) will in Europe have near 100% cellular coverage. You could consider satellite internet but it would most likely also be interfered with by bridges, buildings and trees.
When sailing between countries, especially in Europe, you should consider a European SIM card offering access to all countries at the same rate.
Recommended equipment: 4G router and a national or international SIM card
As long as you are near shore you will in most cases have good cellular connectivity and a standard 4G or 5G Router will be enough to stay connected. You can extend the reach by connecting external antennas to your router and also achieve higher speed but distances greater than 10 Nm should not be expected
Recommended equipment: 4G router with optional external antenna and national or international SIM card
Within the 25 Miles from shore range you may still receive cellular service but it will depend on how the antenna on teh cellular tower on shore has been directed. Some regions, especially those with wind farms may have cellular nodes at sea but these may also be used by private operators.
If guaranteed internet is required for operational purposes you may consider a satellite connection as backup with sufficient bandwidth to perform basic tasks.
There are currently no deep sea cellular services available so you will have to rely on satellite services to connect to the internet.
Recommended equipment: Primary Satellite Antenna with regional or global coverage and backup 4G with external antenna for tech support or crew services.
3 – Always connected
The choice of which technology to install and use will also depend on whether you really need internet connectivity at all times or not. For operational purposes you may need it at all times but maybe the amount of bandwidth does not always have to be able to serve all purposes.
Connectivity should be optional and not being connected may very well be the purpose of enjoying your boat. If you do find the need to be concected then most likely a 4G router will offer the best value.
You need permanent connectivity for your daily operations. Depending on your shipping routes you can consider 4G and Satellite as an essential backup or satellite as primary link and 4G as backup. If your operations do not require high bandwidth (e.g. only email and phone) then you can also choose for a GMDSS L-Band solution. While data costs per MB are more expensive on these devices, their initial cost and global coverage may offer a viable alternative.
Being disconnected is not an option and depending on the situation single or dual satellite installations may be require even over separated teleports/groundstations to guarantee the highes uptime.
Ships affected by the GMDSS rules?
The international GMDSS regulations apply to “compulsory” ships including:
- cargo ships of 300 gross tons and over when traveling on international voyages or in the open sea
- all passenger ships carrying more than twelve passengers when traveling on international voyages or in the open sea
4 – Make the Boss love you
Making the right choice among the above options can be a challenge but this challenge is a rewarding one if done right.
By carefully deciding what is really needed you can save on equipment and use this for other purposes. If you can support occasionally being disconnected then you may very well not need a satellite connection and a 4G connection will do just fine. Choosing the right equipment and SIM card will offer great satisfaction at a low cost -> Boss Happy
Medium sized vessels – single ship owners
Not having a satellite backup may not be an option but calculating the real amount of bandwidth needed while at sea can save thousands. Satellite links are still expensive and every unused bit is money wasted. Don’t waste money -> Boss unhappy.
Try to get a detailed usage report of the last few months and use it as a guideline. Compare between when sailing and in port, when did you use what? If your on-board router supports it then activate SNMP (Simple Network Monitoring Protocol) and monitor your bandwidth for a while.
Consider your options in combining 4G and satellite to match your fleet and don’t take the ‘easy’ way and contact only the big maritime satellite companies (Marlink, Speedcast, Inmarsat).
Smaller operators like Satmarin are more agile, not commited to their own teleport and satellite contract and therefore capable of offering very competitive yet very personalized services. Moreover, we monitor your links as if they were our own.
Fleet Happy -> Boss Happy
Offshore Work Vessels and high bandwidth profiles
If you require high bandwidth connectivity then all options should be on the table. Having operational agreements with most if not all satellite owners we willcompare and find the best opportunities for you.
Whether you only need a very capable 5G unit with multiple antennas to transfer Terabytes or a few 100Mbps to keep your cruise passengers happily connected getting the numbers right will make your Boss love you.
The Bottom Line
Crunching the numbers will give you insight in what your real requirements are. While this may be a challenge you will be rewarded with a less expensive and overall better functioning solution.
If the above is not your cup of tea and you would rather have an independent advisor on your side then Satmarin can also analyze all this for you and provide you with an in depth report on your requirements.
Our competencies are
- 3G/4G/5G cellular Internet
- Regional Satellite internet
- Satellite TV
- Satellite TV Digital Head-Ends
- Satellite TV IP Head-Ends