LEO Satellites: A Game Changer For Maritime Connectivity

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Credits: Donald Giannatti/Unsplash

What started as a slow burn with regional coverage has become a growing trend that will rival conventional satellite communications in maritime, cruise and offshore sectors, says an article published on Riviera.

Lower latency

Iridium is the long-term player LEO communications space, providing L-band coverage worldwide. Since its inception two decades ago, Iridium has provided global communications, albeit at relatively low bandwidths but with lower latency than other L-band networks.

Various operators

During the last 25 years, there has been Inmarsat L-band and VSAT in C, Ku and Ka bands from various operators with geostationary orbit satellites – geosynchronous with the Earth’s rotation above the Equator – but with higher latency than LEO.

First-generation constellation

Two years ago, OneWeb became the first to provide VSAT speeds from LEO satellites covering northern latitudes initially, and it is building a global constellation.

It has 542 satellites in orbit, more than 80% of the anticipated first-generation constellation, and is just two launches away from having a global fleet.

Introduce a global maritime

OneWeb has tested connectivity in the offshore sector, with installations in the North Sea, and plans to introduce a global maritime offering with a network of resellers and partners this year.

But its early drive has been eclipsed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s Starlink LEO constellation, which has taken the market by storm.

SpaceX has signed up more resellers and partnered with major shipping lines such as Mitsui OSK Lines, NYK Group, Solstad Offshore and Carnival Corp with trials and the promise of fleetwide installations.

It seems everyone wants to try Starlink and the new flat-panel antennas to test the benefits of low-latency satellite connectivity.

Remote control applications

It will not be suitable for all, but rapid communications between ship and LEO satellites mean cloud solutions and remote control applications become much more viable.

It should enable autonomous vessels, improved internet-of-things in maritime and real-time monitoring of operations in clear video.

Serious competition

In the cruise industry, Carnival chief executive Josh Weinstein is a firm believer in the ability of LEO communications to enhance passenger and crew connectivity, enabling video streaming over faster networks.

If, or should we say when, these trials have demonstrated the benefits of LEO connectivity, the rest of the maritime satellite communications industry will have serious competition and will need to innovate to keep up with the new players in the market.

A new world order is coming to maritime connectivity and it is being led by a billionaire entrepreneur with his own launch vehicles and social media platform.

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Source: Riviera

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