In our last article, 6 Tips for Choosing Marine VSAT, we talked about the importance of properly choosing a VSAT antenna.
Now, I'd like to discuss a few do's and don'ts that, if followed, should improve your overall VSAT purchase and installation experience.
Do choose an antenna size to meet your needs.
As I said in my last article about marine VSAT, antenna size really does matter. Antenna size and placement (discussed below) have a huge impact on Internet connectivity in remote areas.
Consider bringing your VSAT provider to your yacht before deciding on antenna size and placement. That way, you can discuss options that take coverage and aesthetics into consideration, while identifying potential problems that you hadn't previously considered.
Don't allow aesthetics to determine antenna placement.
Some vessel owners and designers value form over function, not wanting communication devices to mar the mast's beautiful lines. However, to achieve optimal Internet connectivity via yacht VSAT, the antenna must be located so that mast blockage is minimized.
Ideally, the most suitable antenna location to achieve maximum visibility of the satellite is at the top of the mast with a 360-degree view, clear from any obstructions.
Therefore, the antenna sometimes needs to be placed in an aesthetically less desireable location to insure proper connectivity.
Some vessels use redundancy to balance the aesthetic while improving VSAT coverage. Two antennas may be required to insure the necessary line of sight for full time VSAT operation.
Do make the antenna accessible.
What happens when your antenna needs a repair or upgrade? Will the technician have easy access to the hardware on the mast, or will it be a major production to reach the necessary components?
Save time and money by making sure the antenna is installed so that a service technician can perform routine maintenance or upgrades. Also, be certain that the antenna is installed correctly, using top-quality cabling and correct configurations for all relevant components.
Do research your satellite coverage areas.
It is imperative to select a VSAT service provider that offers good satellite coverage in the areas in which you plan to travel.
Ideally, the VSAT provider's satellite network should have an automatic switching mechanism when moving between satellite coverage areas. Such a system allows a seamless transition from one coverage area to another without the need for crew involvement.
Out in the middle of the ocean, a yacht requires a stabilized antenna with reference to the horizon and True North, so that the antenna is constantly pointing at the satellite it uses to transmit and receive signals.
To ensure continuity of the link, many yachts are outfitted with two/dual antennas configured with a rollover of communications between them, in the event that one of the antennas experiences blockage.
Don't assume that your VSAT will be problem-free.
Unfortunately, just because you follow the suggestions outlined in this article doesn't mean that you will avoid all VSAT-related problems. Inevitably, you and your crew will encounter bad weather, VSAT antenna and modem failures, interference and satellite failures.
Most experts suggest that you anticipate VSAT satellite communications outages and have a backup plan in place when Internet communication via satellite is unavailable. Educate your crew on how to use and switch to alternate communication methods, when needed.
Are you trying to determine how much bandwidth your guests and crew require from your VSAT system? We've got a document to help you.
Download a free copy of our 2-page document: Questions to Ask When Assessing Your Yacht's Bandwidth Needs--AND--How to Calculate Your On Board Bandwidth Needs. Simply click on the red button below.