The objective of the project is the development and validation of a system for the provisioning of an integrated maritime communications service.
The system will be based on a high performance VSAT component supporting advanced service features like bandwidth on-demand provisioning at fleet and application level, store & forward data transmission and transparent switching of the user traffic between the VSAT component and complementary satellite and wireless systems.
The SASS@Sea system will be validated during a four months pilot phase by four tanker vessels operating in the North Atlantic, US East Coast and Baltic Sea regions.
The system will support the following features:
- Provisioning of Committed Information Rate (CIR) at fleet level and bandwidth on-demand at application level,
- Store & forward transfer of high data volumes during off-peak traffic periods,
- “Occasional Use” bandwidth on-demand service for non-routine or emergency applications,
- Transparently switching between different maritime networks,
- Open system architecture enabling the integration of future maritime networks (future proof).
The scope of development includes:
- An Onboard Multi Services Gateway (OMSG) for vessels providing connectivity to all relevant maritime communications services including a high performance VSAT system,
- A Shore Multi Services Gateway (SMSG) for shipping companies,
- A Service Management System (SMS) supporting advanced bandwidth management and VSAT beam switching functionality.
The SASS@Sea multi services gateways in conjunction with the Service Management System will be designed as service platform which will be open to integrate different, also future networks.
The project developments will be validated during a four months pilot phase by tanker vessels operating in the North Atlantic, US East Coast and Baltic Sea regions.
The following diagram shows the high level architecture of the SASS@Sea system. The subsystems and components which are developed by the SASS@Sea project are highlighted in blue.
click for larger image
The SASS@Sea service will provide two-way IP connections between ships at sea and the shipping companies at shore. Direct connectivity to the Internet and public telephone networks (PSTN) will also be supported.
The service is based on a high performance VSAT component. The main functionality of the Onboard and Shore Multi Services Gateways is to identify and classify the ship and shore originated application traffic and to control the transmission via the VSAT system according to bandwidth assignments imposed by the Service Management System.
When the ships are outside of the VSAT coverage, the user traffic is switched to alternative maritime satellite systems like Inmarsat or Iridium. Within coastal areas or in ports, 3G/4G mobile networks or WiFi hot spots can also be used. The OMSG and SMSG are routing the traffic transparently via the different networks depending on availability and user defined preferences.
The Service Management System is managing the bandwidth within the VSAT system and is assigning and re-assigning bandwidth to the application traffic on-demand using IP based signalling protocols. It will also support advanced beam switching functionality in conjunction with the OMSG onboard of the vessels, not only depending on the vessel position, but also on other criteria like the bandwidth utilisation in the different beams.
Unlike other existing maritime VSAT systems the service management mechanisms will be independent of the two-way satellite IP platform used. This architecture enables the integration of future networks such as the Inmarsat Global Xpress satellite system into the SASS@Sea service platform.
The planned project duration is 18 months. After the baseline design phase the OMSG, SMSG and SMS hardware and software will be developed and validated in conjunction with a two-way satellite IP platform and maritime VSAT antennas.
The system will then be tested by four tanker vessels within three coverage areas including the North Atlantic, the US East Coast and the Baltic Sea. The crews and the shipping company users will evaluate the performance throughout a 4 months pilot phase which is planned to start in August 2012.
In parallel, the business plan for worldwide operation of the SASS@Sea system will be finalised. The aim is to migrate the pilot service seamlessly to commercial operation after the end of the project phase in the first quarter 2013.
The project is addressing the following issues with current maritime VSAT services:
- Low quality-of-service of shared services,
- High charges of services offering Committed Information Rates,
- Complexity of onboard LAN-, VSAT- and alternative networks (e.g. Inmarsat, Iridium) integration,
- Unreliable satellite and wireless network switching solutions,
- Ureliable and inflexible satellite beam switching solutions,
- Complexity of onboard VSAT system operation.
The SASS@Sea system will provide the following benefits with respect to the above mentioned issues:
- Guaranteed Quality-of-Service with 5 traffic priority levels adapted to ship-to-shore communications applications,
- Lower service charges due to more efficient bandwidth utilisation by central bandwidth management and support of store&forward mode,
- Integrated (one stop shop), easy-to-use onboard VSAT system solution supporting transparent switching of the user traffic between the different communications systems without the need to change the IP configuration within the user LAN,
- Intelligent switching of the VSAT connection between satellite beams not only based on the ship position, but also taking into account antenna pointing restrictions, bandwidth availability and avoiding the termination of running high priority connections.
The project is currently in the system implementation phase. The iDirect Evolution satellite IP platform in conjunction with Intellian v110 maritime VSAT antennas have been selected for the onboard VSAT installations. The Evolution hub has been delivered to the primary gateway of the SASS@Sea system at MediaMobil in Bremen. A second hub system is being installed at the gateway of the satellite operator Telesat at Mount Jackson in the US. The hub systems will support operation of the pilot service within the European, North Atlantic and US East Coast regions.
The prototype hardware of the Onboard Multi Services Gateway (OMSG) is planned to be completed in May. The OMSG and SMSG firmware and SMS software packages are being implemented.
In parallel, the first pilot vessel has been equipped with the VSAT system. The remaining vessels are planned to be equipped in the coming 3 months to be ready for integration testing with the OMSG onboard and the SMSG and SMS systems at shore mid of the year.
Last Update: 18 Sep 2012