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Vsat vs Starlink

Updated: Jul 16

If you are docked in the marina you can connect to the available wifi netwerk, dropping anchor a few miles of the coast a peplink router can automatically switch to 4G/5G, go any further and the only thing left is VSAT. However will this change with the rise of the Starlink network?

Yes it will and with the approval of US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) SpaceX now has the authorization to provide Starlink Ku-band satellite connectivity to yachts and the remaining maritime sector. So what is the difference between the Starlink network and Vsat? What are the Starlink advantages over Vsat?


Vsat

Vsat is short for very-small-aperture terminal. Satellites have been placed into geostationary orbit (GEO) and redirect signals to hub stations on the ground which are connected to the internet. A reasonable V-Sat connection at sea might be 5-20Mbps.

Vsat system onboard consists of a dish antenna, often concealed into an awful big ugly dome, ensuring the connection with the satellite. Difficulty at sea versus land based is that a yacht is constantly moving, the dish antenna needs to be stabilized with respect to the horizon and true north. Small electric motors and sensors keep the dish pointed accurately at a sat, to secure data transfer. Drawbacks are low bandwidth, high latency and higher latitude coverage


Starlink

A network of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites to provide mobile internet access around the world. The network will eventually consist of 40.000 small satellites, orbiting earth at multiple operational altitudes. In May 2019 the first 60 satellites were launched successfully with the falcon 9 rocket, to date (Juli, 2022) approx. 2.500 satellites are orbiting our planet. By expanding the numbers to thousands of satellites and connecting them in a network, Starlink can ensure global coverage exceeding any other sat network.


Maritime

Last year, Elon Musk already mentioned “Starlink will be relatively easy to use at sea” and commented that the relative few users on the oceans is an advantage. On June 30th 2022 approval was issued to operate ESIM (Earth Station in Motion) on vessels in US territorial water and throughout international waters.



Starlink


Speed

Merely a few days after the FCC gave permission, SpaceX launched Starlink Maritime providing internet at open sea. So what to expect from speed and latency? In general, Starlink claims it can offer speeds up to 350 Mbps with low latency. Until now, no latency numbers are given, but between 20-50ms should be expected. Starlink offers a ruggedized version of its dish, with dual high performance terminals and designed to withstand the harsh environment of salt spray and winds.


Starlink maritime needs an unobstructed view of the sky. Which in itself not strange for any antenna or dish, however inconvenient when birthed beside a larger vessel or anchored in a bay with high cliffs. To ensure unbreakable connection, a solution is to combine multiple LTE, Wifi and Starlink into one. This is can be done by using appropriate hardware and SD-WAN functionalities. Read here how such a system is configured or contact us for more information.



Costs

The hardware costs are €10.000,- which includes everything you need to connect, two high performance Starlinks, WiFi router/power supply, cables, base and pipe adapters. The internet service is set at €5.000,- pm, which can be paused and un-paused at any time and billed on monthly basis. Compared to the alternatives, the service is not cheap but it provides you with the best internet connection possible on the coastal waters for most of Europe and the US.


Need information on the best possible internet connection on your luxury yacht? contact us.

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