Connectivity at Sea

Feedsee Mobility : Connectivity at Sea : CDMA over satellite gives maritime industry, including cruise lines, wireless voice and data services

SeaIn 2006, UTStarcom and SeaMobile announced UTStarcom's MovingMedia 2000 all-IP CDMA2000 network solution would be deployed to provide wireless voice and data services to segments of the maritime industry, including the fast-growing cruise line industry. "Our all-IP CDMA 2000 infrastructure solution does not require traditional TDM transmission backhaul," said Jack Mar of UTStarcom. "We believe the compact form factor, use of IP technology and ability to seamlessly work over satellite transmission mediums make it an ideal technology to provide wireless telecommunications service at sea."

Today, maritime connectivity to the internet is facilitated through a combination of satellite communication (SATCOM), cellular data services, and, in some cases, Wi-Fi networks when docked or close to shore. Here's a more detailed overview:

  1. Satellite Communication: This is the primary method of internet connectivity at sea. Ships use marine VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) systems or Fleet Broadband systems to connect to geostationary satellites, which in turn connect to ground stations linked to the terrestrial internet. The ship's antenna must maintain a line of sight with the satellite, and modern systems can automatically track the appropriate satellite even when the ship is in motion. The bandwidth available via satellite is improving but can be expensive and is typically lower than terrestrial broadband connections.
  2. Cellular Data Services: Closer to shore, ships can use standard cellular data services, just like a mobile phone or cellular-enabled tablet might. This is typically faster and cheaper than satellite internet, but is only available when relatively close to land, and the exact distance will depend on the cellular network and geography.
  3. Wi-Fi Networks: When in port or docked, ships can potentially connect to local Wi-Fi networks for internet access. This will often be faster and cheaper than satellite or cellular data, but is of course not available when the ship is at sea.
  4. Maritime Internet Service Providers: There are companies specialized in providing internet services specifically for maritime needs. They use a combination of the above methods to provide as consistent and high-speed an internet connection as possible given the limitations of maritime communication. They may also provide services to optimize the available bandwidth, for example by compressing data or prioritizing certain types of traffic.

Maritime internet connectivity can be influenced by various factors, including the ship's location, the weather, the type and quality of the equipment used, and network congestion. Despite the challenges, with advances in technology, maritime connectivity has improved significantly, and ongoing advancements in satellite communication technology promise to further enhance internet access at sea.