Superyacht VSAT in the Caribbean

Keeping connected in the Caribbean

Following the sun from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean makes sense for charters, but how can you maintain the data and TV service expected? Intellian’s Matt Humphreys explains

We usually sail in Europe. Will we need to modify or change the satcom antenna for use in the Caribbean or during the voyage?
If you have an NX Series antenna you won’t need to change it, as it is compatible with multiple bands and orbits with little or no modification. Ultimately it depends on your network operator and if they have global or regional coverage – you need to make sure that your service provider offers coverage in the areas where you plan to travel. Intellian’s NX Series antennas are not tied to any service provider and work everywhere in the world, so if your current plan cannot meet your needs, you can change to another one.

With all our NX Series antennas, a kit enables simple conversion between Ka and Ku-band in as little as 10 minutes by swapping modular components within the dome. Some of our partners offer multi connectivity solutions for different yacht itineraries, and this is where our NX Series excels as it is easy to convert between Ka and Ku-band and back again, as often as you require.

Does the TV antenna need modification to receive my favourite channels in the Caribbean?
The LNB (low noise block) fitted to your antenna dictates which satellite services you can use. The LNB is the device mounted on an arm at the central, focal point of the antenna’s dish, which collects the reflected signal.

Many antennas in Europe are sold with a Universal Quad LNB optimised for the region: if this is true for your antenna, you’ll need to change to a Worldview LNB, a fairly simple operation as it’s a single module. One of our tSeries antennas equipped with a Worldview LNB will receive SD or HD programming from any Ku-band satellite TV service around the globe, without requiring further changes or re-wiring when the vessel travels from Europe to the Caribbean. If you want to use a Direct TV subscription in the Americas as well as services in Europe, you will need one of our sSeries antennas.

When moored in a Caribbean marina, is it best to use the marina WiFi or onboard satcom?
WiFi and 4G/5G cellular services are nearshore solutions, so for any distance beyond around 15 miles offshore you will need to use VSAT. Additionally, WiFi and cellular connections give no quality-of-service guarantees, so while the bandwidth offered might nominally be higher than that of your satellite service, the connection may be dropped or stall if the network is busy – especially if everyone in the marina is trying to use the WiFi. For this reason, some of our installation partners install a system for easy switching between different connections, allowing superyacht captains to use their satcom service for essential communications even when in the marina, saving the shore-based services for high capacity, low priority applications such as streaming movies.

What would be your recommended backup system to ensure uninterrupted connectivity and a fall-back option for safety communications?
Redundancy is the key to avoid interruptions, be it objects blocking line of sight, a network issue or even hardware. To avoid signal blocking from your vessel’s superstructure, our NX Series antennas have support for dual antenna configurations built into the below deck unit (BDU). This means that when one antenna is shadowed, the system will automatically switch to the other with no loss of service.

To guard against network failure or service degradation from atmospheric conditions such as heavy rain, a tried and tested solution is to have a second antenna on a different band. This ensures an always-on approach for safety messaging and guaranteed global coverage. We recommend an L-band antenna, such as our C700. This operates on the Iridium Certus network, which offers true pole-to-pole coverage. Speeds are lower than Ku or Ka-band, but it’s ideal as a back-up. The C700 is compact and easy to install, has no moving parts and therefore requires no maintenance, and thanks to a 12-patch antenna design it offers outstandingly reliable performance, even as satellites approach the horizon.

If space is at a premium, another approach to maintaining connectivity is to install one of our recently launched v45C antennas, enabling occasional use of an alternative service provider and providing complete redundancy. Compact and lightweight thanks to its 45cm reflector, the v45C offers market-leading Ku-band performance for its size.