5 Markets | KVH turns to Intelsat EpicNG to speed up maritime broadband service

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KVH Industries, a mobile satellite communications equipment and service provider, is preparing to offer broadband in early 2018 to commercial and private maritime customers through satellite fleet operator Intelsat’s EpicNG constellation.

With its new TracPhone V7-HTS terminals, KVH is promising customers peak speeds of 10 megabits per second for downloads and three megabits per second for uploads. KVH’s previous generation, TracPhone V7-IP, advertises peak speeds of three megabits per second for downloads and 512 kilobits per second for uploads.

The KVH-Intelsat partnership is the latest example of growing demand for satellite communications in the maritime market. Mariners rely on satellite links to share information on their vessel’s performance, communicate with family and friends, use the internet and access entertainment.

“All those things drive the demand for higher throughput,” said Randy Anders, Intelsat managing director of North American sales. “Customers request higher throughput and the minute they obtain it, they fill it up with traffic and look to do other things.”

KVH, for example, created IP-MobileCast, a service that enables customers to watch television shows, sporting events, news programs, movies, weather reports and other programming while at sea. Mariners need high-throughput connections in order to make phone calls and use the internet while downloading this type of multimedia content, Anders said.

Northern Sky Research, a market research and consulting firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, expects companies to earn more than $1 billion a year by 2026 leasing satellite capacity to maritime VSAT customers. In 2016, that market was worth $400 million, according to Northern Sky Research’s report Maritime Satcom Markets, 5th Edition published in July.

Before Intelsat launched its first EpicNG satellite in January 2016, company executives were showing KVH how the satellite’s spot beams would provide higher throughput service along major sea routes, including the Caribbean, Mediterranean and North Seas.

“We have a strong partnership with KVH,” Anders said. “They had the vision of what they wanted to provide customers. This partnership confirms the expectation we had for the EpicNG platform when we designed it and built it.”

Intelsat has five EpicNG satellites in orbit. The sixth EpicNG satellite, Horizons-3e, a joint venture with Asian satellite fleet operator Sky Perfect JSAT, is scheduled to launch in late 2018 and fill out the constellation’s global coverage, said Intelsat spokesman Jason Bates.