The Yacht Technology Blog

How should you choose marine VSAT? Follow these 6 tips.

Posted by Andy Levy on Apr 8, 2013 6:55:00 AM


choosing_yacht_vsatIn our last blog post, A Yacht VSAT Primer, we defined yacht VSAT, its use in on board vessel communications and VSAT’s limitations regarding marine Internet connectivity.


We also provided a downloadable two-page document, based on information provided by MTN Satellite Communications, that you can access by clicking this link: Questions to Ask When Assessing Your Yacht's Bandwidth Needs--AND--How to Calculate Your On Board Bandwidth Needs.


Now, let's take the conversation to the next level by reviewing 6 tips that will help you pick the right VSAT package for your needs.



1. Educate yourself.

yacht_vsatBefore purchasing a yacht VSAT package, it’s important to educate yourself regarding the technologies and options available. Learn the terminology, research VSAT online and talk to trusted industry colleagues. For a list of VSAT terms and definitions, use MTN's VSAT Glossary.


Gather as much information as possible before deciding on your yacht VSAT service so you can make an informed decision when entering into a satellite communications contract.





2. Take your time.

choosing_vsatDon't rush in your decision making process. Take the time to assess which VSAT components and service provider are right for you.


Evaluate two or three VSAT providers and get prices, recommendations and references. When comparing providers, be sure that you are evaluating equivalent products and services. 


Components offered by competing providers may not be equivalent. So take your time to carefully evaluate each proposal fully. Don't allow time constraints to rush you into making a hasty decision that you'll later regret. 




3. Choose your VSAT antenna.

vsat_antennaRemember: size matters when it comes to your VSAT antenna. MTN Satellite Communications advises users to, "choose a VSAT dish (or antenna) appropriate to your bandwidth and coverage needs."


Don’t choose the minimum dish size solely because it looks better on the mast and costs less. "The larger the antenna and more powerful the BUC (block up converter), the stronger signal you will get.


"Satellite beams are like light beams. When at the center, light is intense; but toward the edge, light starts to fade. A powerful antenna will ensure a strong signal—even at the edge of a satellite beam’s footprint—and may even help to widen your coverage area."


Antenna placement to minimize mast blockage is also an important consideration. In some mast design scenarios, two antennas may be required to insure the necessary line of sight for full time VSAT operation.




4. Look into optional VSAT services.

Today's owners and guests expect to have a high level of Internet connectivity 24/7. However, there are times when that same high level of connectivity is not required.


Therefore, it makes sense to evaluate your use scenarios and look for a VSAT service provider that offers a plan with varying services, depending upon your fluxuating needs.


For instance, you can work with your VSAT provider to temporarily upgrade your yacht's bandwidth during high-use periods. To save money, you can also suspend use when on board VSAT is unnecessary.




5. Review your contract carefully.

VSAT contracts can vary widely, offering different options and levels of flexibility. Before signing, familiarize yourself with these aspects of your VSAT agreement:

  • Fair Access Policy (FAP)


Before signing a contract, ask to see the VSAT provider’s Fair Access Policy (FAP). An FAP is a bandwidth cap applied by the VSAT provider. The bandwidth cap limits each customer's transfer of a specific amount of data over a specific period of time.


According to MTN Satellite Communications, “some providers have a very limiting FAP that restricts the use of certain high-bandwidth apps such as Skype, YouTube, and other peer-to-peer and/or streaming applications. Usage could also be throttled down at peak periods, or restricted by a monthly data cap with an overage fee and an additional price per MB once your cap has been reached. 


"That’s fine if the cap is reasonable for your usage requirements. Many times, however, it’s much less than desired or less than your expected usage. Check the service’s terms and conditions to make sure this doesn’t happen to you, as it could double or triple the price on the price sheet" if you need to secure more bandwidth after signing the contract.

  • Shared Contention


Contention has to do with the extent to which you share bandwidth with other users and isexpressed in ratios. For instance, a contention ratio of 10:1 means that you are sharing your VSAT service with nine other yachts.


When the network is less busy, such as during the off-season, the contention ratio is reduced. But you should be aware that during high season, the contention will probably increase, slowing down your connection.


A good VSAT provider will anticipate high use levels and increased business, upgrading the network regularly to accommodate higher demands. Before signing a contract, you may want to ask each provider how often their network is upgraded. 




6. Consider a Committed Information Rate (CIR).

skypeYou can avoid sharing bandwidth by including a Committed Information Rate (CIR) in your contract. The CIR insures dedicated bandwidth for your yacht's users and is ideal if you anticipate that guests and crew will be using VoIP, Skype, video conferencing and TV streaming.


Ask your VSAT provider to help you calculate your CIR needs, or use the chart on page 2 of our Questions to Ask When Assessing Your Yacht's Bandwidth Needs--AND--How to Calculate Your On Board Bandwidth Needs.




I hope this information will help you find the right marine VSAT provider for your guests and crew.

To learn more about any of these six steps or for a no obligation conversation with a Great Circle Systems marine VSAT expert about how we can improve your Internet connectivity, please click the red button below.


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Topics: vessel communications, vessel internet, marine vsat

JD_Crawford_head_shotDarren and the GCS team have been instrumental in the development and deployment of several carrier grade IT networks for large scale, Savant-based super-yacht projects where the technology infrastructure needed to be extremely reliable. 


The capabilities of the GCS team have proven instrumental in helping us deliver a world class technology experience to some of the most prestigious yachts in the world.


J.D. Crawford of Savant Systems


I have been working with Great Circle Systems since 2006 when they did the installation of all our networking and Internet communications equipment on our boat being built in Germany.


The equipment they recommended and installed was exactly as we required.  We have had extremely good results with all of their equipment and it has performed as they had advised.


I would highly recommend them to all fellow captains.


Captain Keith T. Moore of M/Y Lady Sheridan

CE_W_Michael_Hummel_of_MY_TVTriton Administrator has proven to be the perfect tool for us on M/Y TV, which is a 78 meter Luerssen yacht.


Triton has comprehensive essential features plus any additional features one can possibly need. It is still easy to use and has a swift support team to implement customer-specific wishes, such as individual day logs, etc.


W. Michael Hummel, Chief Engineer of M/Y TV


Captain Bruno Herregods talks about Great Circle Systems tech support. 

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