US Navy Ships To Get 4G LTE Broadband – Will Commercial Vessels Be Next?

John Konrad
Total Views: 48
June 4, 2012

Last week gCaptain HQ finally got upgraded to AT&T’s 4G LTE service. The local data signal is fast but has, so far, been plagued with frequently dropped calls. That said we are confident that, once the bugs are worked out, the new technology will improve our ability to manage this site. But while our scenic fishing community is well behind the major US cities, which began receiving AT&T’s advanced 4G LTE service in 2011 (South Korea got their first upgrade in 2006!), we are well ahead of the near 70 percent of the globe covered by water and thus outside of 4G signal range.

The US Navy believes broadband 4G will play an important role in the future of communication at sea and has recently announced a partnership that may soon allow cell phones to be used on decks of their warships. And, if new 4G broadband technology proves useful to US Navy Ships, will mobile offshore and commercial vessels be next to receive cell service from sea?

To help the Navy achieve the goal of oceanic 4g Indianapolis based BATS Wireless, recently announced a partnership with the technology companies Cambium and Oceus Networks to provide wireless point-to-point (PTP) cellular radio and antenna tracking equipment for the US Navy. The system will enable sailors to connect to cellular signals onboard ship and allow broadband communications between navy vessels. The project is the US Department of Defense’s first operational deployment of Fourth Generation Long-Term Evolution (4G LTE) advanced mobile communication.

The 4G system is terrestrial based and may be a future commercial alternative to satellite based broadband systems, but, according to the US Navy, the BATS system will supplement, rather than replace the ships’ satellite connections.

The system will feature some of the new automated tracking and stabilization platform currently offered to commercial vessels which features a ruggedized wireless network solution that can be used for a number of ship-to-shore, inter-ship or intra-ship broadband applications. The company claims that, without the use of this enhanced point-to-point solution, at sea networks are dependent on satellite coverage for broadband communications. In addition to ships the 4G units can be installed on mobile offshore platforms, in tactical warfighter vehicles, on aircraft or wherever secure and quickly provisioning high-speed voice, video and data communications are needed.

“We’re able to offer defense customers a broadband solution that will allow ships to communicate with each other even in the harshest ocean conditions,” said Cal Shintani, Chief Growth Officer, Oceus Networks. Phil Cramer, senior VP of sales and marketing for BATS Wireless continues in saying “Organizations from the military to public safety networks are looking for complete wireless solutions to help boost their infrastructures,”

The system also allow for a number of mobility scenarios, including fixed (tower to tower, building to building), fixed to mobile (ship to shore, air to ground), and fully mobile deployments (ship to ship, air to mobile command).

According to wired, the Navy confirms that by the end of this year, three ships – the amphibious assault ship U.S.S. Kearsarge, the amphibious transport dock U.S.S. San Antonio and the dock landing ship U.S.S. Whidbey Island – a limited test fo the system will allow special National Security Agency encrypted Android smartphones to be operated from the deck of these ships.

Does this mean you could soon have 5 bars of 4G wireless on the bridge of a large commercial ship? It’s unlikely but, with a range of approximately 20 nautical miles, and with the ability for operators to relay signals between ships, gCaptain predicts that a technology simliar to this will soon blanket offshore regions like the US Gulf of Mexico and, eventually, the coasts of most modern nations.

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