The U.S. Coast Guard recently stated a priority to improve underway connectivity for its fleet, one more indicator of the importance of high-performance satellite communications systems for meeting mission-critical needs.
At least one part of the U.S. Coast Guard fleet is already well on its way to getting up to speed. Eighteen months ago, KVH won a $42 million contract to supply the next-generation satellite communications solution for the U.S. Coast Guard’s small cutters—via KVH TracPhone V7 antennas and the mini-VSAT Broadband service. Deployment of TracPhone V7 systems on U.S. Coast Guard cutters has been ongoing ever since.
Up to 216 U.S. Coast Guard small cutters, representing 16 different cutter classes, will receive the TracPhone V7 with mini-VSAT Broadband service under the terms of the 10-year contract, which encompasses shipboard hardware, airtime services, and support. A cutter is a U.S. Coast Guard designation for any vessel over 65 feet in length, including patrol boats, buoy tenders, and fast-response vessels.
“In the face of rapidly expanding data communications requirements, including real-time use of biometric technology, homeland security efforts, and extended worldwide operations, the U.S. Coast Guard needed a global communications solution robust enough to support these demands and rugged enough for even the most demanding maritime conditions,” explains Martin Kits van Heyningen, KVH’s chief executive officer. “Affordability was a critical factor for the U.S. Coast Guard as well, and our mini-VSAT Broadband network offers a cost-effective solution to replace expensive legacy services and still provide global coverage.”
With the contract, KVH’s TracPhone V7—the first FCC-approved 24-inch (60 cm) VSAT antenna—and KVH’s mini-VSAT Broadband service have become the U.S. Coast Guard’s Small Cutter Connectivity Ku-band System and Air Time Support Services solution. The Small Cutter Connectivity program is part of the U.S. Coast Guard’s initiative to upgrade the legacy cutter fleet’s commercial satellite systems from Inmarsat to Ku-band in order to provide improved military communication capabilities for voice and data transmission and reception, as well as improving interoperability with Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense partners.
KVH’s U.S. Coast Guard contract is believed to be the largest-ever VSAT order awarded to any one company. VSAT, or Very Small Aperture Terminal, satellite systems are viewed by the U.S. Coast Guard as the solution for improved underway connectivity as well as the solution for sites with problematic network connections.
The mini-VSAT Broadband network was designed by KVH and ViaSat from the ground up; it is based on ViaSat’s exclusive ArcLight® spread spectrum technology. The seamless worldwide network is delivered by 10 powerful Ku-band satellites, 14 transponders, and 12 secure earth stations, and offers voice service and Internet access as fast as 1 Mbps (upload) and 2 Mbps (download) with significant cost savings compared to competing services.
In addition to the deployment of TracPhone V7 on the U.S. Coast Guard cutters, KVH’s mini-VSAT Broadband solution is fielded aboard vessels of the U.S. Navy, joint forces, foreign coalition navies, state emergency service organizations, and commercial fleets operating worldwide.