Maritime SATCOM Enhances Safety and Business Communications for Tugboats

Jan 11, 2012

Reliable, affordable voice and broadband service are becoming increasingly important for tugboats and towboats as the entire commercial maritime industry turns to Internet connections for sharing information with shore-based offices, complying with industry regulations, and even improving morale by helping crew members stay in touch with family and friends. Since cellular services can be unreliable in maritime environments and have prohibitively expensive roaming charges, satellite communications are an attractive choice for onboard communications, business efficiency, and crew morale. KVH’s compact TracPhone V3 and mini-VSAT Broadband network make the convenience of satellite communications a reality for smaller vessels with compact hardware and airtime services in a number of flexible and affordable packages to meet the needs of any vessel owner.

Before KVH introduced the TracPhone V3, the satellite communications solutions available were extremely expensive, with monthly airtime charges well outside the budgets of smaller vessels. Inmarsat services like FleetBroadband are accessible around the globe via compact antennas and are proven to be reliable, but the service is relatively slow (150 to 432 Kbps) and can cost up to $20 per megabyte. Traditional maritime VSAT technology was originally adapted from terrestrial services. While it offered more affordable airtime, the service was often unreliable and required expensive, massive antennas.  New innovations like the TracPhone® V3 and mini-VSAT BroadbandSM service blend the compact hardware and reliable global coverage of Inmarsat and the affordable airtime rates of VSAT to provide all the features that tugboats need to operate safely and efficiently.

The TracPhone V3 offers global coverage and outstanding reliability in a compact package, and mini-VSAT Broadband airtime is one-tenth the cost of competing Inmarsat FleetBroadband solutions. Under published rates, mini-VSAT Broadband subscribers pay just 49 cents per minute for voice services to both landlines and mobile numbers and 99 cents per megabyte when using data for email, Internet access, VPN, etc. By comparison, an Inmarsat FleetBroadband subscriber pays about 60 cents per minute (or $1.99 when calling a cell phone) and seven dollars to $20 per megabyte for those same voice and data services. The difference adds up quickly! With mini-VSAT Broadband’s significant airtime savings, true broadband connections (and all the convenience and added safety that come along with them) become a real possibility for tugboat operators.

This technology offers additional benefits that make conducting business onboard more efficient than ever. For instance, an onboard broadband connection makes it easy to monitor engines and other systems to ensure minimal environmental impact, a useful feature since environmental regulations are expected to expand over the next few years. An additional benefit of maritime satellite technology comes in the form of compact satellite TV systems designed for use on tugboats and other vessels, like KVH’s TracVision® M3ST and M3DX systems. The U.S. Coast Guard and many other federal, state, and local government agencies use KVH’s TracVision antennas to provide access to major television news networks, enhancing situational awareness and providing real-time weather and other critical information during emergency operations.

For complete details about KVH’s mini-VSAT Broadband network and the TracPhone V3, please visit Details about KVH’s TracVision satellite TV systems are available at