What you need to consider when choosing maritime LEO connectivity

maritime leo connectivity 50 degrees north
AST and OneWeb have a shared maritime belief that connectivity at sea should be as seamless and simple as it is onshore, even in the most remote locations. As OneWeb’s most experienced maritime and offshore partner, AST have worked in collaboration with OneWeb and hardware providers including Intellian to test and implement fixed offshore connectivity solutions and are currently trialing maritime LEO connectivity with plans to offer commercial maritime packages in Q2 2023.  
Enabling rapid communications between ship and OneWeb’s LEO satellites means cloud solutions and remote control applications become much more viable. It can enable autonomous vessels, improved internet-of-things in maritime and real-time monitoring of operations in clear video.
With the marketplace increasing in competition from existing and new providers such as Starlink, we outline the key differentials that allow OneWeb and AST to truly support the evolving communication needs of the maritime industry.  

Quality of Service

Maritime LEO Connectivity Expectations

For many high-end maritime customers such as governments and offshore operations, SLA’s (Service Level Agreements) and CIR’s (Committed Information Rates) are a must-have.  

Without these, customers of other satellite networks (including Starlink) face throttling and speed management for the end user and the service becomes risky for operation-critical purposes.  

What OneWeb and AST offer

All OneWeb CIR users are treated as priority, not only high data consumers, this is then backed up with SLAs. Additionally multiple service profiles can be set up on a single set up that ensures traffic is managed and prioritised in the most efficient method. For example, separate profiles can be set up for critical business comms and another one for crew welfare.  

When ordering, end users will be given committed capacity in our network to ensure the advertised SLAs and CIRs are achievable and realistic.   

 OneWeb performs a capacity assessment on every new order to ensure service levels will be met; this means no data caps or throttling of speeds to guarantee service levels. 

To maintain a reliable service and provide maritime users with peace of mind, OneWeb has in orbit spare satellites built as part of its constellation for redundancy. 

Installation and Integration

Maritime LEO Connectivity Expectations

End users want to ensure that their communication solutions are integrated into their onboard hybrid networks and aren’t simply left the burden of setting up on their own.  

If required, they also want responsive technical support to ensure a seamless integration.  

What AST and OneWeb offer

OneWeb user terminals have been developed by specialist terminal manufacturers and are installed and integrated with the vessel’s network by trained professionals giving you peace of mind that it will work seamlessly.  

AST’s 30 years of experience in the maritime sector means we have highly skilled technical engineers who are trained and experienced in the maintenance and commissioning of satellite communication systems. Many of our team were involved in the beta testing and verifications of OneWeb’s fixed offshore and maritime terminals.  

Network Security

Maritime LEO Connectivity Expectations

Cyber security is an increasingly important topic for the maritime industry due to rapid digital transformation and with that comes new threats and regulatory requirements. 

Optimization of operations remains a critical focus, and those who can utilize new technologies and digital solutions will have the upper hand. Cyber security is a critical risk area, as ship operation is largely dependent on the effectiveness of software-based systems for operations. 

What AST and OneWeb offer

The OneWeb network operates a layered approach to security and encryption. Traffic is handled at PoPs (Point of Presence) data centres and interconnected to ensure secure connection is always maintained.  

Unlike some other providers that go direct to internet, OneWeb with AST can offer a completely private network solution, the same as a terrestrial MPLS network extension to your existing private WAN, allowing for critical data communications for operations to be deployed. 

A service plan to suit your needs

Maritime LEO Connectivity Expectations

Not all maritime end users have the same requirements with a range of data usage, use cases and budgets.  

They need to have a suitable range of options that have developed specifically for end users in the maritime industry rather than the single data plan given by other providers such as Starlink.

What AST and OneWeb offer

AST and OneWeb have worked on plans that are use case specific and allow the customers to choose the right package from entry level to high-end.  

Providing options such as suspension rights, scaling options and data pooling along with AST’s comms and bandwidth management services, means end users can develop and manage a plan that suits their specific needs. 

Hardware for the harshest environments

Maritime LEO Connectivity Expectations

Those working in the maritime industry work in some of the harshest conditions. They need to ensure that the terminal equipment they are using is able to withstand the environment they work in. 

Whether it is saltwater erosion, extreme temperatures, vessel movement or simply challenges such as mast obstructions; the terminals must operate flawlessly.

What AST and OneWeb offer

OneWeb and AST have worked with industry leading hardware manufacturers that have extensive experience developing Type Approved terminals specifically for operation in the harshest maritime environments on all vessel types. 

OneWeb’s terminals are designed with IP66 Ingress Protection rating, proven to be resistant to environmental factors, such as storms, harsh winds, saltwater erosion, radar interference, obstruction blockage mitigation (masts, cranes etc), vessel movement in a seaway (pitch/roll, heading change). This compares favourably against Starlink that has only an IP56 rating.  

Installation services provided by AST will ensure the equipment is positioned in the optimum position and mitigate blockage. This is enhanced by the range of terminal form factors available from OneWeb including dual parabolic and flat panel options that can work in Primary-Primary mode with blockage mitigation software installed.  

The variety of approved terminals and the various forms compared to the singular option provided by Starlink provides flexibility for installation and ensures guaranteed service levels during operations at sea.  

How OneWeb LEO connectivity can help bridge the digital divide

remote connectivity digital divide

In 2020, the world embraced digital transformation at an expedited pace, reimagining technology’s critical role in how we work, learn and live. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic illuminated a long-standing issue: businesses operating in remote and rural areas were being left behind and a digital divide was growing.  

Even before the pandemic, a survey conducted by the National Farmers’ Union at the end of 2019 showed that 90 per cent of farmers believed high-speed broadband was essential for their business. A further 26 per cent reported that slow connectivity had been a barrier to further use of digital solutions. 

The challenge for many remote businesses and industries was that many of them couldn’t take advantage of the digital transformation due to slow fixed broadband and mobile connectivity. A recent survey by the FSB in the UK found that;  

  • 30% of small rural businesses received download speeds of less than 10Mbps 
  • 40% of respondents said the speeds they received were insufficient for their current needs 
  • 57% of small businesses experiencing unreliable voice connectivity. 

The global outlook is even more dire.According to an International Telecommunication Union report, in the developed world the internet penetration rate is 87% but just 47% in developing countries and 19% in the least developed countries. 

Can fixed-line connectivity address the digital divide challenge? 

High-quality broadband connectivity is vital to economic growth and social cohesion. Development in providing not just the basic of connections but also higher throughputs to many across the globe are slowly taking shape, supported by ongoing modernisation of fixed and mobile networks. Despite this fact and the advancements in recent times, there are still so many who experience poor, slow and unreliable connectivity.  

In the UK rural areas despite being offered a range of connectivity options, face reduced speeds, too, with 2020’s average speeds in rural England standing at 51 Mbits/sec versus the urban figure of 84 Mbits/sec, relying on an ageing copper network to provide the final connection to premises.  

Comprehensive broadband and mobile connectivity would enable rural businesses to carry out their everyday business with full confidence. Businesses may need to be able to access customers online, through websites and social media, and use digital tools such as accounting software. An ever increasing number of government services are being made available online, with some of them essential for businesses to access. In addition it would allow innovation to take place, adopting technologies such as cloud computing applications and Artificial Intelligence, which can enable a business to grow and become more productive. 

In order to continue addressing these issues and provide essential services, co-operation and collaboration across all connectivity technology is essential. 

What can satellite connectivity do to bridge the digital divide 

Satellite connectivity is no longer the last resort for providing reliable and affordable solutions to all manor of industries and there are numerous offerings available that are helping to tackle the global digital divide.  Low-latency satellite connectivity is a game-changer. It provides more immediate access to data for critical decisions, cloud connectivity, real-time analytics, and IoT applications, enabling easy remote access for all.  

LEO satellite connection’s dependable, adaptable mobile backhaul capability can help close the digital divide by bringing 4G/5G mobile connectivity to rural areas and enhancing network resilience in areas where more capacity is needed. 

A study by EY in 2021 showed that 33% of SMEs nationwide would be open to considering satellite broadband as a primary connection — if full-fibre broadband was not available at their business site.  

Those same SME’s, this time around 31%, also realised that satellite connectivity can also play a key role as a back-up solution in case of network outages.  

Digitalising remote operations  

It’s not just people who can struggle with remote connectivity, IoT devices that find themselves in the middle of a field or in a distant factory will struggle, and anyone who has tried to make a phone call in the middle of nowhere will understand the issue. 

When installing IoT devices far away from communication infrastructure, engineers may have potential solutions for getting the information from their devices however the cost and potential high-energy usage makes them prohibitive. 

LEO satellite connectivity provided by OneWeb though, allows for constant coverage while having satellites at a much lower altitude. This reduces latency, higher bandwidth and increases the amount of use cases for IoT solutions in remote environments.   

Closing the Digital Divide 

In order to increase online access for individuals in the most remote regions and advance universal connectivity goals, LEO satellite broadband can play a crucial role in expanding the reach and resilience of connectivity. OneWeb was launched with the aim of removing barriers to connectivity that are holding economies and communities back.  

Whether acting as a primary or back-up connectivity solution, OneWeb can help stop remote communities, businesses and organisations from being left behind. By working in partnership with AST, OneWeb can provide fast, flexible, secure, cost-effective, next-generation connectivity solutions and help close that digital divide.  

OneWeb White Paper

An economical means of bridging the digital divide – OneWeb White Paper

Some of the most compelling reasons for the satellite and broader aerial connectivity push are clear: the size and persistence of the digital divide, and connectivity barriers for businesses operating in rural or remote areas. It can be easy to forget that on a global scale, mobile internet penetration is only 50%. This means around 3.7 billion people (or 3 billion adults) remain offline, most of whom reside in India, China, Africa and a handful of populous lower-income Asian countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia. OneWeb estimate 25% of this unconnected population – approximately 780 million people – live outside of range of a 3G or 4G signal.

The OneWeb White Paper lays out the case for how the digital divide can be bridged.

Connecting from the sky – Reinventing the final frontier