At the 2014 Monaco Yacht Show, MTN and SkyTech, a UK-based company active in the area of maritime and aeronautical satellite communications, jointly presented the latter's new BB100 Ku/Ka Dual-Band VSAT antenna. During METS last month, was able to view the product first-hand.

Today’s most commonly used band for VSAT systems on yachts and ships is Ku (10-15 Ghz). Telenor and Eutelsat are now launching satellites operating in the very high-frequency Ka-band (20-30 Ghz) - required by HD and 4K television reception. The problem is that Ku coverage is mostly limited to the Mediterranean and North America, so not much use to globe-trotting superyachts. The Ku/Ka Dual-Band VSAT antennas are designed to resolve this dilemma, as explained by Skytech Director, Edoardo Zarghetta:

“Two years ago we were tasked by Eutelsat to develop a Ka antenna principally for commercial ferries that require high-throughput capacity due to the many passengers using smart phones. This developed into the new antenna that can deliver both bandwidths – Ka for coverage and Ku for high data throughput – in a single investment product.”

Skytech claims it is the only Ku/Ka dual-band solution currently available on the market specifically designed for use at sea. The 3-axis chassis is made of aeronautical grade aluminium and the carbon fibre dish is treated with an anti-reflective tuned surface.

Equipped with two independent RF groups in one coaxial feed, the switch between Ku and Ka bands is performed automatically with an intuitive screen app to manage network preferences, coverage areas and security features. Tracking is managed by advanced software and precision inertia sensors that exclude the need for an external gyro, resulting in superior performance in any weather. The two modems are also located close to the antenna to reduce signal loss and ensure a stylish, compact package.

The antenna has also been designed with retrofitting in mind. “Even though we have the two bandwidths, all electronic components, including the antenna controller unit [ACU], the Ku and Ka band satellite modems and the routing logic are embedded inside the dome, allowing for a simple and hassle-free installation,” says Zarghetta. “The job takes a single technician less than an hour as he only needs to connect the Ethernet and power cables.”

Besides the BB100 Ku/Ka Dual-Band antenna (signifying a reflector diameter of 100cm), Skytech also produces a 75cm model. A 30cm model is due to be launched at Seatec in March 2015. With the price of the BB100 set at around US$73,000, Zarghetta argues that the cost is appreciably less than having to install two separate Ku and Ka antennas. He also points out that the products are suitably future-proofed with IEC60945 compliance for EMI, Climatic and Vibration criteria for professional maritime applications.

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