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KVH extends content delivery capabilities

Following on from its recent acquisition of Headland Media, KVH is to further extend its strategic move into the content delivery space with the launch of a new IP-MobileCast service for its mini-VSAT Broadband satellite network.

The IP-MobileCast service will be used to transmit large files through satellite links to ships, taking advantage of additional capacity on the network to deliver content 'over the top' of the mini-VSAT Broadband network in a separate data stream without impacting customers’ contracted data speeds or airtime rate plans.

KVH says that these links are designed to allow large data files such as electronic charts, weather forecasts, e-learning materials, live news and sports clips, movies, IPTV, and IP-radio to be economically delivered to ships at sea.

The new service is expected to be available later this year.

“Today, large files for things such as electronic chart database updates and movies are usually recorded on DVDs that are then physically shipped to the vessel and manually loaded onto onboard networks, a process that is slow, unreliable, and expensive,” explains Brent Bruun, executive vice president of KVH’s Mobile Broadband Group.

“Transmitting these large files over existing satellite services on a one-to-one basis is technically possible, but usually is either prohibitively expensive or even difficult due to service providers blocking certain file protocols to protect access to shared satellite network capacity.”

“Our IP-MobileCast service will make delivering these large files fast, reliable, and affordable, enabling automatic over-the-air delivery of a new generation of content that is needed to enhance navigation, improve operations, and maintain crew morale.”

The IP-MobileCast service will use proprietary software designed to provide error correction, compression, and validation of data integrity throughout the transmission from shore to ship. Shoreside servers encode files for transmission and queue them for multicast delivery 'over the top' of the mini-VSAT Broadband network.

The IP-MobileCast service’s Forward Error Correction (FEC) technology will help to ensure that the CommBox servers on ships receive each file correctly the first time it is transmitted.

The FEC algorithms accommodate intermittent non-continuous transmission, which might happen when large transmissions are interrupted by prioritised network traffic or in poor weather conditions.

The file is transmitted once, and is received by every vessel in the satellite footprint. If the vessel has subscribed to that particular content, the data is stored and decoded using rights management software on the CommBox, and then made available on the onboard server.

KVH notes that normal mini-VSAT Broadband ship-to-shore and shore-to-ship transmissions are prioritised over the IP-MobileCast service and are unaffected in terms of speed or added airtime cost.

“Our new IP-MobileCast service is one of four major 2013 initiatives designed to make mini-VSAT Broadband the maritime industry’s premier content delivery platform,” notes Mr Bruun.

“(We have) also announced our new TracPhone V-IP series onboard terminals for the mini-VSAT Broadband service. These systems include the new Integrated CommBox Modem (ICM), so each one has the capability to receive the new IP-MobileCast service. We doubled our network capacity over the past several months with the implementation of Variable Coding, Spreading, and Modulation (VCSM) technology, and we expect to complete another major capacity increase later this year to stay ahead of the demands of our growing customer base.”

“Finally, we recently announced the acquisition of Headland Media, the industry’s leading provider of commercially-approved news, sports, and entertainment content, and training videos, so we already have both the delivery mechanism and much of the premium content our customers demand.”

The new line of upgraded TracPhone terminals Mr Bruun refers to, the TracPhone V3-IP, TracPhone V7-IP, and TracPhone V11-IP, will all feature KVH’s new Integrated CommBox Modem (ICM), which combines a range of belowdecks equipment to create a full VSAT/network management system – antenna control unit, CommBox Ship/Shore Network Manager, ArcLight spread spectrum modem, VoIP, Ethernet switch and Wi-Fi capabilities – into a single 2U enclosure.

The new ICM offers embedded network management tools for maritime IT managers, with services such as e-mail management, transmission optimisation, assured file delivery, the ability to set up separate networks for operations and crew, and the ability to manage crew use of the system with internet café and crew calling cards already included in the package.

The new terminals can also receive multicast content from the IP-MobileCast service.

“KVH is unique in the satellite communications market in that we not only operate our own network and provide airtime services, but we also manufacture our own equipment, enabling us to bring innovative hardware solutions to market in addition to competitive new airtime services,” said Mr Bruun.

“Our new ICM fully integrates a whole rack of discrete components common with other maritime VSAT systems into one module, which saves space, is easier to install, and is more reliable and easier to support than competing systems.”

The TracPhone V3-IP antenna is 37 cm in diameter, with ship-to-shore speeds of 128 kbps and shore-to-ship speeds of 2 Mbps. The TracPhone V7-IP is a 60 cm antenna with ship-to-shore speeds of 1 Mbps and shore-to-ship speeds of 2 Mbps. Both the V3-IP and the V7-IP operate in the Ku-band coverage area of KVH’s network.

The new dual-mode TracPhone V11-IP also utilises this Ku-band coverage, as well as the network’s global C-band coverage with ship-to-shore speeds of 1 Mbps and shore-to-ship speeds of 4 Mbps.

While the new V3-IP, V7-IP and V11-IP all use the new ICM, KVH also notes that it will offer a stand-alone CommBox server for owners of legacy systems, making the IP-MobileCast service available to all mini-VSAT Broadband subscribers.

One new application already announced for the IP-MobileCast capability will be a service to deliver Jeppesen’s entire ENC and Professional+ chart databases to mini-VSAT Broadband customers.

KVH and Jeppesen expect that this new service will enable a new level of automatic delivery of electronic charts over satellite to eliminate the time-consuming manual process of physically shipping DVDs containing chart updates to customers’ ships.

“This new service could benefit thousands of Jeppesen customers who currently use our DVDs to update their charts by providing an easier, automatic update process,” said Alex Zakroff, Jeppesen’s vice president/general manager, Marine.

“As the IMO’s ECDIS mandate phases in, many of our Professional+ customers will be required to migrate to our ENC product. Since KVH plans to multicast both chart sets to its customers, the updating process is expected to be stable and uninterrupted before and after the transition.”

The new IP-MobileCast service is expected to be available to support all of Jeppesen’s flexible chart licensing programmes, including traditional direct licensing, dynamic licensing, and OpenENC Pay-As-You-Sail (PAYS) services by the end of 2013, subject to ongoing cooperation and final agreement between the parties.

In that regard, KVH says it will also be able to offer automatic position reports to support its customers who subscribe to the Jeppesen OpenENC PAYS electronic chart service.

OpenENC PAYS provides subscribers with access to the entire Jeppesen Electronic Navigation Chart (ENC) database, allowing them to pay only for the charts they actually use based on position reports made periodically to Jeppesen.

KVH’s new TracPhone V-IP series terminals all feature internal GPS systems, which enable position tracking for Jeppesen without needing to interface with the vessel’s navigation system, for use with the PAYS position reports by mutual KVH and Jeppesen customers.

“KVH and Jeppesen have been having a lot of creative discussions about ideas for making satellite delivery of charts a practical replacement for physically distributing DVDs to vessels. Through this cooperation, we realised that the position data we were already collecting to support our mini-VSAT Broadband service was exactly what Jeppesen needed to support their PAYS service,” said Mr Bruun.

“With the permission of the customer, we can support the Jeppesen service, and since the data is already travelling over our network back to our own operations centre, we decided to offer it as a benefit to mini-VSAT Broadband customers.”

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Digital Ship magazine provides the latest information about maritime satellite communications technology, software systems, navigation technology, computer networks, data management and TMSA. It is published ten times a year.


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