Connecting Maritime Means Going Domeless

As Mallorca fills for the Palma Superyacht Show, you can see the future of the maritime all around. That future, while in part sleek and beautiful designs, relies on new technology and the pervasiveness of connected products on the vessel. In the past year, technology and connectivity have entered the vessel at a growing rate. In fact, today’s global market for satellite connectivity is about 347,800 vessels, and by 2025, that number will increase by 25% to approximately 434,800 vessels.

Here at Kymeta, we have our eyes on the satellite constellations that promise faster and more reliable connectivity, and what that means for the future of maritime. One thing we know is that we don’t expect to see those large gimbal dishes dot the harbor for much longer. These traditional options for maritime connectivity are simply not feasible to support industry growth and consumer demand that this industry is seeing—technologically, financially, and aesthetically.

To support the rising demand of connectivity worldwide, satellite providers are launching new, Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and high-throughput satellite (HTS) platforms. However, the ability of current communications antennas to access these current and future platforms for maritime is limited. Both LEO satellites and HTS offer faster and more comprehensive global coverage, with access to massive additional spectrum. Today’s gimbal dishes, with their mechanical navigational components, simply don’t have the speed or precision to properly acquire and maintain connection with these satellite constellations; especially LEO satellites, which move faster and are more plentiful than other constellations in the sky. This limited access to better connectivity is a problem for crews and operators alike when you see the number of in-service maritime units reaching more than 1 million by 2022. LTE isn’t an option on the ocean, so fleets and vessels need the right technology to access the best possible connectivity as demand continues to rise.

It’s not just a matter of being ready for faster connectivity and better satellites, the future of superyachts and leisure craft connectivity is sleek and streamlined. Look at some of the new yacht designed that are unveiled this week and think about whether or not a traditional gimbal dish deserves a place on that craft. Not only one spot, but several, because current maritime vessels require separate domed antennas for television and internet connection, and two or more antennas for redundancy of these systems. These antennas are not cheap, and produce only spotty coverage, and require lengthy maintenance that can’t be done at sea. Owners and operators need to dock for weeks of downtime for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance and installation.

When designing the vessel of the future, it’s about sleek, fast and efficient technologies that complement the design and functionality of that vessel. Gimbal dishes aren’t making the cut anymore, and we’d wager that next year’s harbor may look a little different.