Maritime Monday - Will Kraus headshotGuest Blogger: Will Kraus, Director, Maritime Business & Product Management

Stabilized VSAT antennas come in various dimensions, but typically measure 1m diameter or more. As stabilized VSAT antenna platforms become more standardized in their form factor, there is a common misconception that the service is also standardized in terms of delivering identical user experiences. The experience that a mariner may receive from a VSAT system generally has little bearing upon the antenna itself – price does not always equal performance. The type of VSAT service chosen, combined with the expertise of a VSAT provider, creates a widely varying user experience. Here is where the confusion typically occurs, a story of “overpromising and under-delivering”.

With a lack of standardisation in VSAT, many elements of the equation need to be understood before committing. Is the type of VSAT service “all you can eat”, or limited in volume? What is the contention ratio for the VSAT connection and is a Fair Use Policy applied? In addition to the monthly service charge, what are the installation/deinstallation fees plus annual maintenance costs? Is additional infrastructure required on board? Can an IT equipment rack fit on board?

A ship owner or manager should also consider the length of the communications contract, and what flexibility is offered by the provider. Many airtime providers don’t permit pauses within the airtime contract, which can cause additional expense if a ship is not trading. VSAT antennas can be large and heavy, but how does a smaller antenna impact Quality of Service (QoS) and coverage? It is clear to see how choosing a VSAT provider can be complicated.

Maritime Monday Iridium Certus Antenna

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