Inmarsat has completed the first phases of testing of integrated mesh network technologies using shore-based terrestrial connectivity for its forthcoming ORCHESTRA network, which plans to combine geostationary orbit (GEO) satellites, low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites and terrestrial communications into a single maritime service.
Inmarsat is developing the terrestrial elements of ORCHESTRA to provide targeted capacity to tackle demand hotspots in places like ports, where large numbers of vessels congregate in small geographical areas.
The tests took place in Singapore between land-based signal towers and ships offshore across various combinations of frequency bands and terminal equipment onboard vessels to establish achievable performance for ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship connectivity, including distances, range, throughput and link availability.
Singapore was chosen because it is one of the world’s busiest container ports, as well as being one of the most demanding environments because of equatorial weather conditions such as heavy rain and high humidity.
Inmarsat says that it expects the stepping-stone connections within ORCHESTRA to reach at least 10 km kilometres and 100 Mbps per link, with the mesh network extending this to 30 km and beyond. Just five shore stations near Singapore could deliver in excess of 10 Gbps using such a system, the satellite operator notes.
“The demand for connectivity is growing constantly and Inmarsat continues to anticipate the needs of our customers, meeting future demand from them through the multi-network power of ORCHESTRA. Today’s news is real world proof of how Inmarsat ORCHESTRA will tackle emerging hotspots in busy maritime areas such as congested ports and shipping lanes via terrestrial connectivity to supplement our global satellite networks,” said Peter Hadinger, Chief Technology Officer at Inmarsat.
“Through Inmarsat’s innovative use of spectrum and technology, combined with state-of-the-art terrestrial mesh networks including using vessels as stepping-stones, Inmarsat will deliver enhanced and customised connectivity to our customers. This will enable Inmarsat to improve services in the future by anticipating and managing demand from customers in hotspots.”
“It is a win for all our users and Inmarsat will work with national regulators to deliver the benefits of advanced regional connectivity that will also contribute to their governments’ economic growth plans.”
In the most recent tests, a land-based signal tower communicated with a vessel at sea that travelled to multiple common points daily. The ship sailed patterns of varying distances from the shore, measuring performance during all kinds of weather conditions, the frequency of blockages between the test vessel and shore, such as other ships, and the effects of signal reflections off the surface of the sea.
Testing included validating the ‘stepping stone’ aspect of the system, connecting a ship to shore via another intermediate ship also on the network.