Mid-ocean, a seafarer takes ill, and loved ones back home struggle to make contact.
It’s an unfortunate yet typical occurrence in the maritime world. It happened again over a decade ago, yet in this case, the outcome was hardly typical — it led to a revolution in maritime satellite communications that has set the bar of innovation in connectivity to an unprecedented high.
The year was 2006, and the late Arent Kits van Heyningen was a hale 90 when he and son Robert Kits van Heyningen set out in the Newport to Bermuda yacht race aboard Temptress, an IMX-45. Midway through the competition, Mr. Kits fell ill.
“Trying to connect with him and get information to and from their boat in the middle of the ocean was not only incredibly difficult, but incredibly expensive,” recalls Martin Kits van Heyningen, KVH president and CEO. “That experience helped forge the idea of creating the mini-VSAT Broadband network, a totally new approach to satellite communications for the maritime market.”
Driven in part by the race, KVH kicked off an ambitious initiative: to build a VSAT satellite communications network that would encircle the globe and provide fast, affordable, reliable satellite Internet and phone services to vessels worldwide. The result? Just a year later, KVH launched the mini-VSAT Broadband service, along with the TracPhone V7 satellite communications system. “We designed it from the ground up, focusing on reliability and delivering an end to end solution that just works,” says Martin.
The popularity of mini-VSAT Broadband grew, coinciding with an overall trend in the maritime industry toward increased reliance on connectivity. Meanwhile, KVH continually improved upon the TracPhone line of onboard antenna systems designed expressly for the mini-VSAT Broadband network. The company also deepened the scope of its commitment to network users with the introduction of the IP-MobileCast content delivery service of news, sports, entertainment, and training programming viewed by global fleets and crews.
It could be said that KVH’s rise to the top of the market* in a crowded arena of competitors is a textbook case of leveraging new technology to compete with entrenched competitors. With its long string of industry firsts, the company continues to solve tough problems by disrupting the market. Its commercial maritime pedigree stretches back more than 60 years, and includes delivery of news, movies, seafarer training, and more (visit the KVH Innovation Timeline for more details).
The Latest Milestones in Maritime VSAT
As the mini-VSAT Broadband network marks a decade of growth, KVH has recently surpassed another mark by shipping more than 7,000 mini-VSAT Broadband systems. They are currently in use on everything from small recreational sailboats cruising off the coast to 1,000-foot-plus commercial vessels transiting the world’s oceans, and military vessels protecting seafarers and shipping.
And, since the debut of the company’s end-to-end connectivity solution, it continues to earn industry awards for the family of TracPhone products in a range of categories.
KVH engineers, designers, and technicians are not resting on their laurels. The team continues to take an innovative approach to its mini-VSAT Broadband service and TracPhone VIP-series antenna systems, and is always looking to enhance and improve the user experience with new technology to increase speeds, expand coverage, and remain affordable. The recently released AgilePlans by KVH subscription program is another disruption — the first and only all-inclusive, no-commitment Connectivity as a Service (CaaS) model for the maritime industry.
“We created mini-VSAT Broadband because we knew there had to be a better way to give mariners everything they needed, including global coverage, small antennas, fast data speeds, and affordable airtime,” says Martin. “That was our vision: Everything in one system – global, fast, affordable, small, reliable. No compromises. That’s why we became the market share leader in maritime VSAT and have remained there.”
You may also be interested in:
*KVH is the world’s No. 1 maritime VSAT supplier as measured by vessels equipped with mini-VSAT Broadband service, according to NSR’s Maritime SATCOM Markets, 4th Edition, June 2016, and the COMSYS Maritime VSAT Report, 4th Edition, March 2015.