Simplifying High-Speed Maritime Satcoms via Airbus’ AuroraGlobal

airbus skynet
Skynet 5D, via Airbus Defence & Space

For those of you who geek out on the latest ongoings in the world of satellite communications, you’re likely aware that Airbus, the French company famous for their airliners, has a very strong presence in the satellite communications (satcoms) sector, one that reaches deeply into the maritime industry via their company’s Airbus Defense and Space (formerly Marlink) brand.

Satellite communications is inherently confusing because every service provider in this sector not only has its own brand name, but in many cases has significantly different services while operating on different satellite communications bandwidths. For shipowners who are looking at installing these systems, it’s quite a bit to consider.

Let me attempt to give a bit of an overview of what the high-speed satellite internet sector looks like (or perhaps end up confusing you more):

Inmarsat’s GlobalExpress VSAT utilizes three dedicated Inmarsat-owned satellites with more than 70 Ka-band spot beams each to provide downlink speeds of up to 50 Mbps and 5 Mbps uplink.  Their system uses a closed architecture, meaning the use of their satellites is exclusively governed by them.

On the other hand, IntelSat’s EpicNG open-architecture satellite platform uses a combination of C-, Ku-, and Ka-bands along with a combination of spot beams and wide beams to provide high throughput communications of up to 160 Mbps.

For some NATO countries, Airbus uses their own constellation of satellites operating on the X-band to provide satellite communications solutions to their military customers.

So what does this mean for the shipowner?

At the end of the day, if you have either service, you’re going to have pros and cons associated with it including different throughput speeds, coverage availability and built-in services, however Airbus is looking to simplify things with a new system they have just unveiled called AuroraGlobal.

While at Satellite 2014 in Washington, D.C. this morning, I met up with Tore Morten Olsen, Head of Maritime Services at Airbus Defense and Space, who notes that their new system will allow their customers access to both the Inmarsat GlobalExpress network, IntelSat’s EpicNG network, and others, all via the use of one VSAT antenna, built by Cobham or Intellian, and designed to interface with high-throughput satellites.  They have accomplished this via exclusive partnerships with both Inmarsat and Intelsat.

For naval customers using Airbus’ Skynet satellites for their communications, AuroraGlobal is good news for you as well as this new technology will enable 70 Mbps uplink and downlink speeds, or four times what you’re receiving now via a 60cm antenna.