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Satellite Communication-at-Sea

Super Nova

Adventure cruising and Internet access go hand in hand with SAILOR 100 GX on board

What springs to mind when you hear the phrase 'cruise holiday'? For many, it conjures up images of charting a leisurely path through the Med or Caribbean on an ultra-modern ship kitted out with all the home comforts. Sun lounger by the pool, cocktail in hand. And Internet access of course.

But what happens when holiday makers shun the blazing sunshine of tourist hotspots in favour of adventure cruising in the far North or South? Deck pools aren't quite as tempting and Internet access in such remote areas is certainly not easy to come by. Can guests on board stay in touch with friends and family at home then? Well, it's not easy to deliver, but Cobham SATCOM and partners have a solution.

Cold cruising

In May 2015, Inmarsat and Cobham SATCOM partners Network Innovations and Global Marine Networks were tasked with testing the Fleet Xpress High Throughput Satellite (HTS) service on Nova Logistics' 1992 built ice class cruise ship, M/V Ocean Nova. This was six months prior to the commercial launch of Inmarsat's new maritime broadband service so presented the ideal opportunity to try Fleet Xpress in a range of conditions.

The M/V Ocean Nova was looking for cutting-edge services to provide to their customers who want to explore the furthest reaches of the Earth while still having reliable contact with families and work colleagues at home. Delivering reliable, fast, connectivity is a challenge when close to the Poles but Nova Logistics sees it as essential to the cruising experience during its tours of the Arctic and Antarctic.

"Nova Logistics first came to us for advice on the latest in satellite systems, on-board networking, and optimised satellite solutions," explains John Dark, VP, Sales and Marketing at Global Marine Networks. "As a result, we partnered with Network Innovations and Inmarsat to provide early access to the Fleet Xpress services, and provided a full suite of RedPort Global routers and services to optimise the on-board networks."

Smooth installation

Inmarsat Fleet Xpress differs from other satcom services as it is a global solution designed to deliver greater coverage and faster Internet speeds than traditional VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) services. It is made possible by a network of three brand new Inmarsat I-5 satellites (the Global Xpress network), transmitting multiple spotbeams on Ka-band frequencies. Uniquely, Fleet Xpress was designed and developed as a hybrid solution, using the FleetBroadband service as a way to extend coverage and ensure availability.

Luckily, Nova Logistics already had a SAILOR 500 FleetBroadband terminal on board. So for the trial, they only needed to integrate a Fleet Xpress antenna. The choice of antenna was an easy one. Network Innovations recommended the equipment they believed most likely to provide maximum performance on the Fleet Xpress network based on design and previous experience. That equipment was SAILOR 100 GX.

In addition to class-leading radio performance, which results in a strong link to the satellite even on the edge of coverage and in all conditions, SAILOR 100 GX is also designed to be easy to install. A fact that Global Marine Networks can testify to: "With the installation instructions provided it was possible to provide clear instructions to fabricators and our naval architect. The Ocean Nova was inspected a week prior to install and the installation took place during an 8-hour port stop. All went smoothly," said John.

Exceedingly reliable

With the installation complete, it was down to Inmarsat and Network Innovations to put the Fleet Xpress service through its paces. The teams were confident in the combination of the Global Xpress network, Fleet Xpress service and SAILOR antennas' ability to deliver a reliable, high speed link, even at 55 S - 62 S in the Antarctic.

The testing involved repeated downloads of data in varying degrees of weather, particularly heavy precipitation. The results showed that indeed, Fleet Xpress would deliver a boost for guest connectivity on the Ocean Nova and the SAILOR 100 GX perfectly integrated with SAILOR 500 FleetBroadband was the right state-of-the-art antenna for the job. Nova Logistics agreed and in February 2016, decided to keep Fleet Xpress on board the Ocean Nova for the benefit of guests.

Since the trials last year and Nova Logistics' decision to keep all of the equipment on board and continue using Fleet Xpress, the service has only improved. "As the trials were based on a pre-release installation of Fleet Xpress, performance has since improved as the service has met production standards. Confidence in the service and hardware is extremely high as it has already proven exceedingly reliable," concludes John.

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