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A quick guide to satellites for superyachts

29 September 2022• Written by Matthew Humphreys, Intellian

Those round domes seen on top of a yacht’s mast aren’t just for show. Pretty much anything that requires an internet connection – whether that be a Netflix show, a ride on a Peloton bike, a check of the engine monitors or a yacht’s charter itinerary – is provided by this infrastructure. It’s an essential bit of kit, and owner’s on the market will find there are a wide variety of satellite operators, networks and antennas available, as well as a lot of homework to do to understand the technicalities of it all.

To make it simple, Matthew Humphreys, sales director at leading satellite provider Intellian, offers a helpful guide to break down everything an owner will need for flawless connection at sea.

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Understanding the dome

There are many technicalities involved in the dome and the radar technology within it. For starters, its overall size determines if the connectivity on board is measured in gigabits, megabits or even kilobits per second, and the surface area of the integrated antenna controls what bandwidth can be drawn down from the satellite. As each network and antenna has a role to play, it’s important to find a provider who can combine different attributes into a solution to meet any requirements a yacht may have to be able to run with a consistently high-quality connection.

Intellian is at the centre of this ecosystem with an expert team that knows every technological development in the market, as well as future network expansions. As a result, Intellian can provide a bespoke and future-proof solution for any customer.

How to get the best bandwidth

The tech within these domes are huge, however most of today’s satellite networks are comprised of the higher spectrum of Ka-band and Ku-bands. As we all know, bandwidth can come in a range of speeds, and the determining factors are the size and capacity of the satellite, its relative distance to earth and the Intellian antenna installed.

Networks run by SES and Intelsat are known for their large volume capacity. They are popular in the cruise market due to the thousands of passengers on board and their demands for good bandwidth. It was this factor that led Intellian to create their award-winning v240MT antenna (and since then the v240MT 2) which is found on cruise ships all over the world. These antennas can also be found on superyachts, so all guests and crew have access to unlimited data and speed. Intellian also has smaller form factor options designed for these high-speed networks, including the new SES mPOWER MEO network and the NX Series which ranges from 150cm down to 85cm.

Newer entrants in the market are OneWeb and Starlink, which are also Ku-band but with much smaller satellites in a lower orbit. This means they can offer Mbps services with reduced latency. OneWeb’s network has been designed with the maritime market in mind, with its user terminals designed for at-sea complexities. Starlink installations are typically found on yachts that tend not to venture too far from shore.

How to stay online 24/7

Choosing a product with L-band operating frequency and satellite spectrum would be the most reliable for low-data always-on applications, and is perfect for lower bandwidth and resiliency to weather conditions. L-band also forms part of the backbone network for the Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) so it is important that it is functioning at all times. L-band networks offered by Iridium and Inmarsat also form the companion network to many higher speed options as a layer of redundancy. If there were a system failure, the onboard comms system switches over so those on board are never offline.

Streaming live television

Owners and guests who enjoy watching live sports, particularly those that are only available on broadcast TV, will need to look at onboard satellite TV solutions. With matching radome options for many of the internet solutions, the new Intellian t-Series is a popular choice as it continuously meets the global yachting need for access to entertainment.

To learn more about Intellian’s technology and to find an authorised dealer who can offer a bespoke package to suit your yacht, contact the team directly here


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