Cobham has launched its new SAILOR 800 VSAT system – an 83cm antenna, which the company claim exhibits the same performance as a 1m antenna. It is being marketed to users as a design solution for those seeking an unobtrusive dome and is being offered as an alternative to the SAILOR 900, which competes in the 1-1.2m range.

The company claims that ‘SAILOR 800 VSAT competes in the 1m VSAT antenna market, offering significant benefits by being lighter and more compact than the competition, but offering equal or even higher RF performance (G/T =18.2 dB/K).’ 

With this bold claim in mind, posed the question, ‘if mini VSATs can compete with their larger alternatives in performance terms, why don’t all superyachts adopt mini VSAT systems?’

In response, Cobham’s global business manager for maritime VSAT, Jens Ewerling said:

“The simple answer would be ‘sure, why not?’ But a more elaborate response would be that there is no relation to antenna size and vessel length. It all depends on the requirements for telephony and bandwidth of the owner, operator and/or charterer, and of course the cruising area, and how much on board ‘real estate’ the owner is ready to sacrifice.

“The SAILOR 800 VSAT is well suited for yachts from 18m and up. If the yacht is operating globally we, [alongside other] maritime VSAT service providers, would recommend an antenna with 1m reflector dish, like the SAILOR 900 VSAT.
Larger antennas like our Sea Tel 6012, with a 1.5m dish, will come into play if the requirements point to very high power requirements and if there are no budget constraints.”

The SAILOR 800.

When asked about the potential deficiencies a superyacht would experience when using a smaller dome, Ewerling said: “The SAILOR 800 VSAT actually is by definition not a ‘mini-VSAT’. It runs on all existing TDMA or SCPC-based Ku-band networks, which means iDirect or Comtech modem/hub platforms, the de-facto standards in the maritime world. And yes, the SAILOR 800 VSAT sports a super-efficient RF package, the result of scientific research by the company here in Denmark, which makes it as capable on those existing networks as a 1m antenna from other manufacturers.”

“Some of our Partners (maritime VSAT service providers) are now offering twice the bandwidth with the SAILOR 800 VSAT compared to antennas from other manufacturers”, he added.
Ewerling said that the term ‘Mini-VSAT’ has become a marketing ploy for incentivising smaller antennas at the cost of network efficiency. He said that competitors, “are spreading the available Ku-band spectrum, which means they have to use op to eight times more Megahertz to achieve the same Megabit of bandwidth.” “This model seems to only work if you own the entire value chain from antennas, modems, hardware manufacturing, satellite capacity, ground hubs, dealer/distribution network”, Ewerling explained, “and no other company in the world is interested in this.”

Owners may think that ‘Mini VSATs’ offer an attractive proposition but they are ultimately counterproductive, Ewerling concludes. It’s, “a network and service which is highly contended with lots of limitation for use of popular streaming protocols for things like Skype, iTunes, Pandora, Spotify…”

There will be a comprehensive analysis of the satcom market in issue 152 of The Superyacht Report, published in mid-March.

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