Maritime VSAT Communication Buyer's Guide

The Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) technology has brought a significant leap in network connectivity for shipowners, but they must understand VSAT's capabilities and limitations. In the article below, we will explain the risks and opportunities that come with upgrading to VSAT communication.

Shipping Industry Shifts to VSAT Communication

For various compelling reasons, the shipping industry is accelerating its shift from L band systems to VSAT communication. Higher broadband and fixed data caps allow for better use of more complex applications, while the actual purchase price and operating costs have decreased.

However, some shipowners are still struggling to understand what this shift means. Often, the advice we hear is that investing in VSAT will solve many user problems in one go. What is not always fully understood is what they are paying for? Compared to L band, VSAT communication offers them what?

Considering the tough situation in many shipping markets, the available funds for system upgrades and monthly fees are very limited, so the decision made initially should be the right one.

VSAT is an acronym. The term "All You Can Eat (AYCE)" means unlimited data, and this is indeed true for most packages. The Maximum Information Rate (MIR) is the headline number for throughput. But the Committed Information Rate (CIR) is key to determining the price. Users must pay attention to CIR because it largely indicates the actual information rate they will receive.

The most common complaint we hear is that low-cost VSAT fails to meet user expectations, and customers either have to upgrade to more expensive plans or slow down when they exceed the contracted data caps.

VSAT Communication Needs to Meet Real Needs

Another problem arises when shipowners cannot use VSAT to meet their actual needs. A low throughput rate within budget might be suitable for low-bandwidth tasks, but attempting to use the same service package for web browsing or office software might leave them greatly disappointed.

In many ways, what customers want has not changed much. They want an open platform that gives them some choice in terms of applications, wide coverage, and system reliability while being reasonably priced. For service providers, products must adapt, but the rules are the same. We must listen before we sell—informing customers and providing them with services and packages that can truly meet their needs.

In the next 5 years, we expect to see most of the laggards continue to transition from L bands to VSAT communication. Hesitant buyers should ensure they purchase a system that matches its actual description, and more importantly, one that can meet their future needs.

With proper understanding and illustration, VSAT communication can provide a truly end-to-end managed global service, keeping you connected anytime, anywhere, whether on primary or backup bands. To represent its true value, it should make significant improvements in the end-user experience. Finally, it must consider continuously evolving technology and offer a choice of bands or a combination of bands.

Shipowners must, in any case, avoid VSAT hype and should focus on their needs and how they are changing. This way, they can work with a service provider to determine what level of service they really need—what kind of package can provide such a service.