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Focal Point: C2SAT
Technology For The Future

by Susanne Sundqvist, C2SAT

The broadband and Internet revolution has finally reached the maritime sector. The Internet generation is no longer a land-based only system. Users at sea expect similar network performance as they receive at home. Access to communications you have come to depend upon is just as much a necessity at sea, whether it is for contacting headquarters, family and friends, or for entertainment purposes. Suddenly, crew welfare is at the top of the agenda for many ship owners and most crews are likely to apply for work on vessels offering the best broadband service. Enormous bandwidth is needed to satisfy passenger and crew voice and Internet links as well as a wide range of value-added services.

The market is currently divided into VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminals) and the Inmarsat and Iridium segments. The difference between these communication systems is a VSAT solution that is customer designed. Granted, the equipment investment is probably higher — however, traffic fees are much lower. There are many communication systems available on the market that result in a constant decision struggle for ITC managers who operate within the offshore business environs.

More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered with oceans — that’s an enormous area to cover with a communications’ blanket. Then, there are weather conditions to counter, as well. One second, the sea is calm and, one minute later, there is stormy weather of Titanic proportions. Under these circumstances and over long distances, there is but one method to communicate effectively and reliably, and that is via satellite.

Unpredictable dynamic weather conditions call for a specific kind of VSAT, one that is robust and, above all, reliable for all vessels, such as seismic boats, container ships, cruise ships, fishing boats, and military vessels requiring constant, always-on communication. The upstream oil and gas industry increasingly relies on satellite communications (SATCOM) for their needs in remote offshore operations, as well as for reliable backup services on their offshore platforms.

The VSAT antennas on board these vessels must, therefore, be stabilized to track satellites effectively, and to eliminate that detested loss of signal. When a vessel rolls back and forth due to wind and wave action, and the satellite is located in the area between the antenna’s extreme positions, the zenith paradox occurs. This leads to loss of signal and is a problem with three axes and various communication systems normally associated with maritime VSATs.

Stability With Four Axis
C2SAT, established in 2000 and headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, is raising reliability, precision, and accuracy a step ahead by using four axis on their antennas. The Company has introduced a series of four axis military and commercial high performance stabilized antenna systems for always-on mobile broadband connectivity. The C2SAT stabilized antenna systems feature optional reflector sizes up to 2.4m for all frequency bands, including Ku-, Ka-, C-, X- and S-band, fitting the same mechanical rig. The flexibility of the present, patented, four axis stabilized mechanical robot allows for a tailored solution based on a customer’s requirements. The object is to provide reliable high speed satellite communication, reduce costs in investments, and to reduce the traffic fees, making the bandwidth that’s actually been paid for by the customer available for a wide range of applications without reduction in quality.

The C2SAT system achieves a high tracking accuracy (with only a loss of 0,1 dB) — and that takes into account both the losses due to pointing and the losses due to polarization misalignments. The high tracking accuracy is a result of the system’s gradient tracking method, a predetermination tracking parameter and the four axis design, where the fourth axis refers to the cross level elevation. The patented stabilized antenna system helps to predict the next position needed. The forth axis enables shorter geometric paths and less rotation torque for each axis. Adding the forth axis also solves the zenith paradox at high reflector elevations during dynamic conditions such vessel roll — the satellite is seen alternatively from the north and the south.

The technologies applied are proprietary and protected by a series of global patents for two-way broadband satellite communication, making as full a use of bandwidth as is possible. The system permits always-on services such as Internet access, SCADA, Wi-Fi, voice over IP, GSM onboard, ATM, credit card validation, video conferencing, video telephony, live video transmission, email, TV, as well as customer tailored services, all available simultaneously in a single system.

A Range Of Products
Based on the original 1.2m Ku-band stabilized antenna platform, C2SAT has expanded the portfolio to include a new lightweight version, the C2SAT 1.2m Ku-4M and also the C2SAT 2.4m C-band, which includes a larger reflector built of low weight fiber carbon which gives the unit an overall weight of 170kg. The new lightweight version was officially launched in February of last year and the C-band antenna was introduced in June last year at the CommunicAsia show in Singapore.

Antenna customers range from fishing boats, merchant vessels, seismological marine laboratories, military vessels to yachts. C2SAT does not sell to the end-consumer but through a distribution net with global coverage. In April of last year, a follow up order was received from an offshore customer in the Middle East. This order was for the C2SAT 1.2m Ku-band system, which followed the initial pilot installation in 2007 on a drilling ship.
A Radio Link Point-To-Point System
One of C2SAT’s partners is Trac-ID Systems AS (Trac-ID), based in Stavanger and Bergen, Norway, with StatoilHydro Venture as a major owner. Trac-ID is a technology provider specializing in wireless applications for the oil and gas industry. That company aims to contribute to increased safety and profits in oil and gas field operations and other harsh environment operations by supplying high quality wireless solutions for tracking, monitoring, and communication.

The cooperation between C2SAT and Trac-ID has resulted in the development of TracLink, a stabilized radio link, point-to-point solution, which makes it possible to transfer 155 Mbps/sec. of data — yes, even offshore. The system is a combination of the C2SAT four axis stabilized antenna system, microwave point-to-point radio and sophisticated traffic routing (TracSwitch).

This TracLink system-solution can use as many as four antennas, two positioned at the bow and two at the stern, to ensure always-on communication with the opposite fixed radio link installation. Each pair of antennas (at bow and stern) automatically compensates for multipath fading. If, for instance, a drilling derrick is shadowing the microwave signal from the bow system, the TracLink system automatically transfers the data traffic to the stern system to maintain the wireless link.

The microwave radio used in the TracLink system is the latest generation of Ericsson’s Point-to-Point radio and includes 155Mbit/sec modems. The TracLink system solution makes it possible for the system to automatically control which of the four antennas is active. The TracSwitch, an integrated part of the TracLink system, operates without interrupting traffic.

The TracLink 1.2m antenna solution is comprised of the C2SAT-patented gimbals system with four stabilized axes. Each axis adjusts the direction of the antenna by using a predicting device to ensure the antenna is looking toward the opposite radio link installation.

When fiber optic cables are installed, the communication systems used today provide high capacity transmission between fixed installations. However, there is no provision for communication to floating rigs operating offshore. These wireless link systems will be the preferred solution for communication between floating offshore installations and fixed platforms (or onshore sites), as the system makes it possible to transfer larger volumes of data from offshore operations and associated systems. The TracLink solution can also be a component of an automatic backup system for existing fiber optical links.

The cooperation between C2SAT and Trac-ID has also resulted in a communication solution, TracSat. In September of last year, TRAC-ID and seismic company Wavefield Inseis ASA announced the successful implementation of the TracSat system on M/V Malene Ostervold, which is used in seismic operations around the globe. The TracSat system is based on C2SAT 1.2m Ku-band unit.

The offshore industry’s demand for asymmetric satellite services providing higher bandwidth ship-to-shore, transmitting large volumes of information between remote sites and headquarters, offers a strong financial forecast. Wavefield purchased the TracSat system after extensive testing to verify the systems satellite coverage capabilities as well as global functionality.

Antenna Answers
With traffic fees based on maximum bandwidth, C2SAT stabilized antenna systems make it possible to increase the number of terminals in the offshore network, using the same satellite link. The systems gradient tracking system identifies any selected satellite within six seconds — DVB or DVB-S2 is optional. The C2SAT antenna system was developed with a ruggedized construction to meet military standards, including shock, vibrations, and EMC. The systems’ high reliability makes it suitable for use as the main communication connection point. C2SAT systems provide higher bandwidth ship-to-shore, and large volumes of information may be transmitted without frustrating interruptions.

About the author
Susanne Sundqvist works as the Marketing manager and has been with C2SAT since 2004.