Technology

Picking out the Right Marine VSAT Satellite Antenna

1 May 2020By Barry Lawrence-Panter
Bugsy Gedlek

Written by

Barry Lawrence-Panter

Barry Lawrence-Panter is the technical sales director for Marine VSAT, which offers low commitment, high-quality Global VSAT Service, and impartial technical advice. www.marinevsat.net

With new technologies being developed in Asia and the likes of Silicon Valley every day, how on earth is anyone supposed to keep up with and know which VSAT satellite antenna manufacturer will be the most suited and reliable? From the cheapest copies to the most expensive industry renowned antennas, every company claims to be the best and all for similar reasons.

Well, the decision is easier than you first may have realized. The answer must first come from the yacht’s requirements: its primary sailing areas, the maximum required bandwidth for the season, and its flexibility. The answers to these questions will quickly narrow down your antenna selection.

The limitation of any VSAT antenna is the transmission — the ability for your antenna to send your data to the satellite located in Clarke Orbit in space. The more upload data (bandwidth) you require, the more transmission power is required from your antenna. The transmission power of your antenna is primarily governed by two elements:

  • The size of the reflector
  • The size of the amplifier (BUC: Block Up Converter)

Of course, there are other factors, such as component quality and design. But these are key and as you would predict, the higher-end manufacturers such as Sailor, SeaTel, and Intellian invest millions of dollars every year into improving these efficiencies by better design.

By selecting a leading manufacturer’s antenna, it enables you to select service from any VSAT provider in the world, giving you access to the most customized VSAT contract and solution for the owner.

Typically, VSAT service providers offer excellent service throughout prime areas such as the U.S. East Coast and along the coastline of the Mediterranean. Larger regions, like the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean, have fewer satellites and weaker reception. Satellite performance is like a flashlight: If the beam is wide, the intensity in the center is good but towards the outer edges, it’s weak.

When operating in these areas of weak coverage, you’ll require a much larger antenna reflector to catch the weaker signal. In prime sailing areas, it is possible to use smaller antennas. However, if there’s a possibility the vessel may venture into different regions, a small antenna could be the very reason you’re forced to explain why there’s slow or no Internet connectivity — yet the owners are still faced with all the costs at the end of the month. You can see why flexibility is important. By selecting a leading manufacturer’s antenna, it enables you to select service from any VSAT provider in the world, giving you access to the most customized VSAT contract and solution for the owner.

You should also consider easy access to trained support engineers and spare parts while selecting a model offering you convertibility between Ku and Ka band. Be sure to consider future compatibility for upcoming LEO (Low-Earth Orbit) Satellite Networks, which offer faster Internet at sea than ever imaginable.

This article originally ran in the May 2020 issue of Dockwalk.

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