Hatem Bamatraf: Satcomms for sea and port
By Hatem Bamatraf, executive vice president, enterprise, du
When communications are needed offshore, on port or at sea, a very small aperture terminal (VSAT) can be used to transmit and receive satellite transmissions. A VSAT is a small satellite dish that is capable of both receiving and sending satellite signals.
It is used to supply high bandwidth networks and secure communications where normal terrestrial fixed-line or wireless communications would be impractical.
Satellites deliver advanced communications infrastructure to regions that do not have adequate terrestrial infrastructure. Their telephony and broadband wide-area network technology can cover virtually the entire globe, as long as the sending and receiving antennae have a clear view of the sky.
Maritime organisations can work with a telecom service provider to configure and customise a consistent VSAT service level for all their locations.
VSATs are most commonly used to transmit narrowband data (point of sale transactions such as credit card, polling or RFID data; or SCADA), or broadband data (for the provision of satellite Internet access to remote locations, VoIP or video). VSATs are also used for transportable, on-the-move (utilising phased array antennas) or mobile maritime communications.
The satellite business is an important element in the communications spectrum, filling an important role for difficult-to-reach end users. Satellite technology continues to evolve to keep pace with the changing end-user demands for digital services. A VSAT service can be set up to operate virtually anywhere to connect directly to an existing leased line, MPLS, or virtual private network.
Satellite communications can support point-to-point and point-to-multipoint communications in hard-to-reach places like the open ocean, deserts, jungles, and mountainous regions. There, they support specific applications designed for specific user niches such as ships at sea, military units, scientists, and explorers.
They can also complement existing terrestrial infrastructure with ubiquitous availability; coverage to remote areas where there is little existing infrastructure; bandwidth for video and user-generated content; voice, data, and high-bandwidth applications; wireless backhaul and maritime communications services.
Communications satellite networks avoid all but the worst terrestrial disruptions, making them an excellent backup solution for terrestrial networks. They can be used to support disaster recovery and quick-to-deploy solutions that quickly restore damaged communication services.
Satellite vendors and network operators say these networks have fewer potential points of failure than terrestrial solutions, as well as built-in redundancy at many levels. A VSAT solution can be set up to achieve a level well above 99% end-to-end availability to all sites, regardless of location. VSAT services can be fully managed and customised to suit whatever specific needs or topology are required.
In cases where it might take weeks to lay cable for a terrestrial broadband connection, VSAT makes for rapid deployment for new harbour or port sites within an existing network, and the system can quickly and easily be modified as business needs change.