Happy New Year to you all! Let’s hope 2023 is going to be a great year.
The last quarter of 2022 was a busy but fascinating time for us, with a very successful METSTRADE 2022 show. I would guess there were at least three times the number of visitors this year as the halls were packed – particularly on the Tuesday and Wednesday. We had a fantastic location at the entrance to Hall 10, so we saw a lot of people.
The previous year, the Dutch government imposed an 8pm curfew on the restaurants and bars each night, so if you didn’t have a bar or restaurant in your hotel, it meant very early sober nights! It was the only show I have been to when I felt more rested and healthier on my return than when I arrived! This year it was very different.
The final flourish for 2022 was the Antigua Charter Show in December, which Sharon Phillips, Director of our USA office visited.
The Marine Equipment Trade Show (METS) is the world’s largest trade exhibition of leisure marine equipment, with a total of 1,400 exhibitors from 49 countries. The attendance was awesome. The increase in attendance was most likely due to the cancelled show in 2020, followed by the curfew show in 2021.
We were joined by Viasat and Intellian at our stand. Intellian and Viasat were launching their new Viasat upgrade kit for the NX100. Viasat was also showing a fantastic 3D graphic of their new Viasat VS3 satellites beaming onto the earth. These have the ability to overlay LEO satellites to provide a fantastic real image to understand the scale and capabilities of their services. We will soon be able to show this graphic.
METS is always a great place to see the latest innovations in the maritime world from superyachts to dinghies. The DAME Awards are now an integral part of METS. The overall winner this year was a Personal Locator Beacon from Ocean Signal that communicates via both long and short-range systems and is not much bigger than an iPhone. It combines an AIS man overboard device and GPS with a Cospas-Sarsat personal locator beacon, Galileo Return Link Service – even visible and infrared signal lights!
However, my personal favourite was a 2m boat hook that rolls up into a 10cm roll, from Seaview Spurs Marine!
Educational Workshop for ACREW @ Astilleros de Mallorca
As I mentioned last month, Mat and I repeated our Educational Workshop “LEO, MEO and GEO – The Inside Story” from FLIBS 2022. This was a local event organised by ACREW in Astilleros de Mallorca on Wednesday 9th November. Again, it was well-received, and we enjoyed answering the many questions this subject stimulates.
At METS, we were asked to run the same workshop for a team at a shipyard and for a management company. We can run the workshop as a private webinar if required. We are not selling a product, nor a solution, but promoting impartial education to all parties including captains, engineers, shipyards, management companies, etc. We discuss what the pros and cons are going to be for yachts regarding data communications in the short, medium and long term.
There is a lot of confusion arising over the rapidly changing pace of new services emerging in the satellite industry. The new LEO constellation Starlink from SpaceX emerged in mid-2022 for maritime. This has disrupted the whole industry, from rocket launchers to antenna manufacturers. In addition, there are other LEO services launching in 2023 together with several new, very sophisticated, fast and flexible MEO and GEO satellite solutions at good prices and high bandwidth.
What new and exciting technology can we expect in 2023 for yachts?
Continuing with my regular column from last year on LEO, MEO and GEO satellite communication updates, we will see the following in 2023:
Starlink has introduced data caps
This isn’t new for 2023 as it happened at the end of last year. In November, Starlink suddenly introduced data caps on all their services. This was prompted, as we expected, by the congestion developing in the USA residential market. Starlink has been running its service for a couple of years and has hundreds of thousands of users. Congestion has resulted in the collapse of the bandwidth experienced by most users. As a result, Starlink has introduced a data cap of 1TB per month for all residential users in the USA and Canada during daylight hours.
Starlink has also introduced the term “Priority Access”. This defines the amount of data that will be provided at full speed, based on the service subscribed to. This is the data cap or limit. They have now extended the “Priority Access” to all their other services globally. This includes Business and Maritime, fixed and mobile.
If you are subscribed to the Maritime service anywhere, the “Priority Access” allows 5TB of data to be used each month at between 60-250Mbps down, and between 10-30Mbps up. After that, the bandwidth reduces to 1Mbps down and 1Mbps up; there is an additional charge of €1.88 per GB for additional “Priority Access”.
As a measure, 5TB would be consumed by 10 TVs streaming HD for 12 hours a day over 10 days, excluding any other use. An extra 5TB would then cost about 19,000€ for the month. There is no “Priority Access” for the RV service, and bandwidth is always limited between 5-50Mbps down and 2-10Mbps up.
The congestion is due to demand growing faster than the supply of data from satellites. The solution is to launch more satellites to increase the capacity; more will be launched in 2023, but will it be enough?
The Kymeta with OneWeb service will launch in the second quarter of 2023
This is a similar service to Starlink, but it comes from a partnership between two companies. Kymeta has designed and manufactured the flat u8 LEO antennas. OneWeb is the LEO constellation and provides the airtime that is used via the Kymeta panels.
As with Starlink, two flat Kymeta u8 panels are provided. We have tested these panels over the last 6 years and they are robust and proven in the challenging marine environment. The speed and accuracy of tracking are phenomenal. The two panels are provided to avoid mast shadow; they share the airtime contract and must be used on the same vessel.
The OneWeb airtime bandwidth is 200Mbps down and 20Mbps up. There is a range of data caps, or “Priority Access” in Starlink terms, based on different monthly prices with overage fees, if required. All I can tell you now is that the pricing is competitive with Starlink.
Will it be better than Starlink? That’s a good question. What I can say is that the antenna is proven. The airtime will be licensed in all the countries whereas Starlink is only licensed in the USA. There are options to have a guaranteed service, but the main plus is that you will have direct first-line support from your integrator, and not via text messaging.
Viasat VS3 GEO launches new monthly contracts
Contrary to my report last month, the first of the three massive Viasat VS3 satellites will be launched this January after being delayed since December. These satellites are the largest and most powerful satellites ever launched. They will all provide 1Tbps, which is much more than the nearest and current largest satellite. They can be moved around to cover areas of high demand dynamically.
The key features that come with this new service are:
- Month-to-month contracts have been launched
- 50Mbps streaming at 4G prices
- A new Intellian NX conversion kit to avoid purchasing a proprietary antenna
- 4 x breakouts USA, Spain, UK, Germany for national IPTV breakouts
One to watch – AST Spacemobile progress their ‘direct to cellular phone’ in 2023
In November last year, AST SpaceMobile successfully deployed the massive communications array on its BlueWalker 3 satellite. This will test satellite direct to cellular communications. The 693-square-foot array is now the largest commercial communications array in Low-Earth orbit. It is designed to communicate directly with unmodified cell phones, providing full broadband service.
AST SpaceMobile’s business model is to partner with mobile network operators, including Vodafone Group, Rakuten Mobile, AT&T, Bell Canada, MTN Group, Orange and Telefonica, and use their terrestrial spectrum to offer service. The company said its current agreements cover more than 1.8 billion existing subscribers.
In the not-too-distant future -possibly 2024- we may all be able to communicate with our cell phones via satellite from anywhere in the world!
We will keep you posted!
By Roger Horner
e3 VSAT or SUPER DATA
+34 971404 208