Satellite Communications in a Marine Environment

Being on your boat should not mean that you are alienated from the outside world. Whether it’s staying in touch with the office or simply checking the latest news or weather, satellite communication systems are the simplest and most cost effective way to do so. Regular mobile phones have limited capabilities at sea, whereas satellite phones provide far better coverage, with many capable of being used worldwide. Not only does this make them perfect for staying in contact with family and friends but also their value in terms of safety is infinite. In a world that never stops, being connected on the move is more important than ever and thanks to satellite communications from GTC this is easier than ever, even when you’re on a boat. The marine market is flooded with electronics so why should boating enthusiasts spend their hard earned cash on satellite communications? Perhaps because voice, data, SMS and GPS capabilities (on Thuraya models) are available in one compact handset which can prove vital in case of an emergency. Satellite phones and broadband terminals can also be used to download essential weather reports or simply just to keep in touch – whether it be for business or pleasure by voice or data. A popular option for many boating enthusiasts is a portable satellite phone allowing them to take their sat phone between vessels and also carry with them when on land. All handsets from Thuraya, Iridium, Globalstar offer voice and data services while Inmarsat will introduce to data to its Global Satellite Phone Service (GSPS) in 2011. Furthermore the handsets can send and receive SMS with most satellite operators offering a web facility to send free SMS to a sat phone. Data connections are easily facilitated by connecting the phones to a laptop via a USB cable which is included with the phone. With sat phone prices starting from £420 for the Thuraya SO-2510, these days a satellite phone is a more affordable option than ever before. However, it is worth noting that sat phones can only achieve data speeds of up to 9.6 kbps which is slow for anything other than small emails. If significantly higher data speeds or simultaneous voice and data usage is a necessity why not consider a fixed satellite broadband terminal? There are products available specifically for marine application, some offering data speeds of up to 432kbps – Inmarsat FleetBroadband, Iridium OpenPort and Thuraya Seagull. However, fixed marine terminals do carry a larger price tag than satellite phones with the cheapest terminal, Iridium OpenPort, offering data speeds of 128 kbps starting from £3,260.00. Fixed terminals consist of the antenna which should be placed above deck which connects down to a below-deck unit where handsets and laptops are connected for voice and data usage.

FleetBroadband Antenna
There are also marine docking stations available for satellite phones providing a halfway point between a fixed and portable satellite solution – these accessories allow the sat phone to have a safe fixed docking point on the vessel with an external antenna to boost signal strength but can also easily be unclipped from the docking station for portable use. For satellite phones both pre-paid and post-paid satellite airtime is available offering a range of options to suit different requirements. Fixed satellite terminals require airtime packages on a post-paid basis although some will not charge a monthly fee meaning lower costs for those who will not be using their equipment regularly throughout the year. There are many different equipment and airtime options available for marine users making satellite communications suitable for all budgets, locations and voice and data requirements. Please contact us to discuss your requirements.

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