Technology

Managing the VSAT Signal at Sea

1 August 2020By Barry Lawrence-Panter
iStock/davelogan

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

It can be argued that VSAT is the most cost-effective and convenient connectivity solution at sea. It’s also one of the most challenging services to maintain due to several factors.

By comparison, a home broadband connection ultimately has a cable from the property all the way to the Internet source. VSAT, however, requires signal transmission 36,786 kilometers to the satellite and back, meaning each individual data packet must complete a 73,572-kilometer journey before it reaches the Land Earth Station to begin the final journey via fiber-optic to the Internet break out. (By comparison, the circumference of the Earth is 40,075 kilometers.)

Remote technical support should be a mandatory requirement from any quality VSAT provider. 

As the VSAT signal passes through the Earth’s atmosphere, weather variants, and space, many elements can adversely affect the signal’s quality before it’s delivered to the Internet. This can mean packet retransmissions, increased latency, and a perceivably slow Internet connection (even if there’s plenty of bandwidth available).

This susceptible signal needs to be constantly managed and monitored to ensure the absolute best Internet experience. Some VSAT resellers deliver a monthly invoice with zero visibility or they control the VSAT connection, passing customer complaints onto a teleport who are untrained in the maritime sector.

Remote technical support should be a mandatory requirement from any quality VSAT provider. This enables not only the signal quality and stability to be monitored but also the bandwidth availability and throughput to be verified to ensure the satellite operator has not over-subscribed the service. There are two elements of remote connectivity:

  • First, access to the VSAT antenna, satellite modem, and gateway router on board the vessel.
  • Second, access to the teleports satellite platform controlling the connectivity to the vessel.

With these elements, your operator now has full visibility and control, making certain the VSAT connection is constantly maintained.

Remote access to the vessel IT rack is delivered by the VSAT connection itself. Should the VSAT be offline, then out-of-band connectivity back-up can easily be automated, such as 4G, Iridium, and Inmarsat. This enables your VSAT provider to switch Internet gateways, control the VSAT modem for satellite beam switching, or remote control and maintenance of the VSAT antenna without the need for an engineer to be on board.

Remote access to the teleport’s satellite platform offers access to vital VSAT link data such as “receive carrier to noise ratio” (RX C/N), “Transmit power” (TX), and active display of any CRC, SCPC RX and TX data missing errors, which are all critical to achieving a quality satellite link.

The only method of accessing reliable VSAT connectivity at sea is via third-party managed services.

This column originally ran in the August 2020 issue of Dockwalk. 

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