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Ku, Ka, C, one antenna, one service by Harris CapRock

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Communications company Harris CapRock Communications has launched a new offshore satellite communications service, Harris CapRock One, which provides Ku, Ka, and C band satcom with one antenna, one price and guaranteed service availability.

Oil and gas communications company Harris CapRock Communications has launched a new offshore communications service, "Harris CapRock One", which can automatically switch between different satellite communications bands and wireless communications in order to provide the best service.

The user is given a single price for the satellite connectivity, which they pay no matter which satellite the data is being sent through. Harris CapRock guarantees to provide 99.999 percent service availability, for an agreed data speed, anywhere in the world, for that price.

The service can also include radio communications where available, such as microwave and 4G.

A company can be given security of communications service, promised at 99.999% uptime, rather than a vague promise of 'best effort'.

"This is a step change for us," says Tracey Haslam, president, Harris CapRock Communications. "We've suffered from best efforts for long enough."

'Harris CapRock is going to drastically change the way our clients experience managed communications services,' she says.

"People want to have what they have onshore when they are offshore," she said, "and they want to have it through a single device."

The high reliability is also important when offshore operations are being monitored remotely, or real time data is being streamed.

Offshore operators are typically asking for 5mbps at the moment, Ms Haslam says. "A lot of them want 10 mbps, but they can't afford that price. So they stay at 5."

Antenna

As part of the service, Harris CapRock has developed a new 2.4m antenna which can communicate in C, Ku and Ka bands, and switch band without any onboard technician required.

This means that you don't need more than one satellite antenna. The days of offshore platforms having four different antennas to communicate with different satellites, all using precious deck space, can be over.

The antenna uses materials originally developed by Harris Corporation for military applications.

This is the first time an antenna has been developed which can communicate by C, Ku and Ka band, Ms Haslam says.

Smart box

The antenna is connected to a special 'smart box' called Intelligent Communications Director (ICD) which can work out which satellite to use, based on an internal GPS and database of the various satellite network footprints.

The device can also take into account data speeds, latency and cost when routing the data.

This means that a drill ship or rig can use the faster Ku / Ka band services while it is under their coverage, as most offshore oil producing regions are, but move to C band coverage while it is being re-positioned across open ocean. The switch happens without the crew noticing.

The data can also be delivered via radio (wifi/cellular), or fibre communications where they are available, for example when a vessel is in port, or microwave (long range line of sight) links are available.

"Right now, people will often have a satellite service on when they're in range of a LTE [4G cellular] signal," she says.

The system can automatically switch to a different satellite if it loses connection for a physical reason, such as an offshore platform sitting between the drilling rig and the satellite.

It can automatically be configured to use new satellite services as they become available.

"We want to create a single unit that will be forward looking and future proof," Ms Haslam says.

It is possible to set up multiple networks on-board with different access rules, for example you can have one perhaps high cost, super reliable service for real time data, and another for crew personal communications.

Satellites

Harris CapRock uses a non-geostationary Ka band satellite constellation, operated by O3b Networks, which means that the satellites are moving in medium earth orbit (MEO) at all times, and so the satellite antenna needs to track them as they pass overhead instead of tracking with a fixed point on earth.

Because they are closer to the earth than geostationary satellites, the data latency (time for data to go to the satellite and back) is shorter, which means that they enable much smoother web browsing or working with software hosted remotely.

The C band satellites are geostationary, so the satellite antenna needs to make sure the antenna is pointing directly at the satellite, as the vessel rocks on the waves.



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» Harris Caprock
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