Did it ever occur to you that satellite communications signals can’t penetrate masts or other metal structures?
It’s worth thinking about in the context of satcom at sea, a technology that is meant to provide reliable connectivity wherever vessels cruise. We’ve seen the domes on boats of all sizes: When the system has a clear view of the sky and the satellite, there’s no interference, and no problem with the signal.
But then you notice poor performance on a certain heading that clears up when you change heading. Or, at the dock, you can’t find a satellite signal. Once you shove off, there’s no problem.
Permanent structures such as masts, radar units, and towers, as well as electromagnetic interference, can affect satellite communications quality and visibility of the satellite, potentially for an extended period of time. That’s why KVH engineers have added a new feature to TracPhone V-IP series antennas for both commercial and leisure vessels that enables those areas of blockage to be identified in the system so the antenna can quickly compensate.
Tracking Avoidance Zones (TAZ) help restore connectivity in areas where multiple satellite beam coverage is available. Once reception blockage areas are determined, the system recognizes them and automatically switches to an alternate satellite in the vessel’s service region.
However, satellite communication signal blockage can also be temporary. For example, when a vessel is turning onto a new heading, a blockage may slowly pass through the view of the antenna. Rather than immediately triggering a switch to a different satellite, the TAZ feature can be programmed to delay the satellite change for a set period of time to make certain it’s a significant, rather than a passing, disruption.
With the option to set up to five TAZs, it’s a flexible tool designed for easy configuration. KVH technical support regularly monitors TracPhone system performance for signs of blockage and can remotely configure one or more TAZs, if needed. The TAZ feature is available on all KVH TracPhone systems that function with the Integrated CommBox Modem (ICM) belowdecks network management unit.
“With TAZ, we can ensure customers have the least amount of satellite interference and that they can maximize usage time while onboard,” says Robert Balog, KVH senior vice president of engineering.