German Tanker Shipping signed a contract to implement the technology last month after completing a pilot on five of its tankers operating in the North Atlantic, the US East Coast and the Baltic Sea.
The SASS@Sea system assigns bandwidth according to priorities defined by the shipping company. Five priority levels are available, with voice and official communications usually ranked highest.
The system is built around an onboard gateway, a shore gateway and a service management system.
The Onboard Multi Services Gateway (OMSG) works like a router. It is connected to one or two VSAT units and a backup system (Iridium or Inmarsat, for example). The Shore Multi Services Gateway (SMSG) is mainly used for routing and exchange of monitoring data.
Both gateways classify traffic and control its transmission according to bandwidth assignments imposed by the service management system.
When the ship is outside of VSAT coverage, traffic is switched to alternative systems like Iridium or Inmarsat. Near shore and in ports, 3G/4G networks or Wi-Fi hotspots can also be used.
The service management system and the OMSG can switch satellite beams depending on vessel position, heading (to avoid antenna blocking), running applications (so as not to interrupt phone calls or high priority traffic) and bandwidth availability.
The system also has functionality allowing store and forward data transmission, so heavy files can be sent at off-peak times.
MediaMobil says that the open architecture of SASS@Sea doesn’t depend on the two-way satellite IP platform used. Designed and available for Ku-band, the mechanism can be adapted to Ka-band systems, such as Inmarsat’s upcoming Global Xpress constellation.
Andreas Nil, managing director of MediaMobil, told Digital Ship that German Tanker Shipping were “very satisfied” with SASS@Sea which it tested from August to December 2013. “They used three times the amount of traffic they had expected to use,” he said.