Connectivity Is King
If you’ve ever attended a concert or professional sports game and tried using your phone, you’re familiar with the problem of too many people simultaneously attempting to access to the same cell tower. Unfortunately, similar bandwidth saturation often plagues marina Wi-Fi. While an economist might call this a tragedy of the connectivity commons, KVH sees it as an opportunity to deliver next-generation connectivity.
One of the (many) clever things about smartphones is their ability to seamlessly jump communication protocols, sans any user involvement. A call, for example, can be initiated using Wi-Fi calling, and—provided that service exists—the phone will automatically switch to cellular if its operator leaves Wi-Fi coverage.
Impressively, KVH has achieved similarly seamless hybrid-data connectivity with its TracNet terminals, which operate exclusively on the KVH ONE Hybrid Network. Collectively, these antennas and their supporting network deliver cellular (5G/LTE), satellite, and—when available—Wi-Fi connectivity, and the terminals’ embedded artificial intelligence automatically routes calls and data between protocols based on cost and available signal strength (see below).
If you’re imagining a three-circle Venn diagram with a connected yacht at its center, you’re on the right track.
TracNet terminals are available in three sizes, starting with the TracNet 30 ($20,000), which features a 37-centimeter aluminum dish that’s stabilized across two axes. The TracNet H60 ($28,000) features a 60-centimeter aluminum dish, while the superyacht-ready TracNet H90 ($40,000) features a 1-meter carbon-fiber dish; both are three-axis-stabilized. While the bigger antennas hustle ones and zeros faster than their little brothers, all three models share the same future-proofed architecture.
This architecture centers on a high-speed Ethernet power over coaxial cable that shuttles data between the abovedecks radome-enclosed antenna and the system’s rack-mounted belowdecks unit (BDU). Each radome also features a sat-comm antenna that operates on KVH’s proprietary Ku-band global HTS network, as well as high-gain 5G/LTE and Wi-Fi antennas and radios.
This latter point matters greatly because it physically situates all three line-of-sight antennas on high, where they can deliver significantly better performance than antennas that lack elevation.
Once installed, the BDU leverages a form of rules-based AI to deliver the lowest-cost, highest-performance connectivity. While each TracNet terminal attempts to leverage Wi-Fi connectivity first, its onboard AI constantly evaluates all available protocols and switches between signals to achieve the best cost-adjusted results. Each BDU features a display showing what protocol the system is currently leveraging.
As mentioned, TracNet terminals operate on the KVH ONE Hybrid Network. While KVH tackles all satellite communications on its proprietary network, the company partners with a global carrier to supply customers with SIM cards and cellular airtime, all in one consolidated bill. While the network’s SATCOM coverage is near-global, KVH understands that there are cruising grounds where regional carriers deliver better (or cheaper) service than its 5G/LTE partner, so each BDU features dual SIM slots for customer-supplied SIM cards.
The net result is a reliable hybrid communications system that works to deliver fast and affordable service, even when the rest of the (bandwidth) commons is suffering the tragedy of oversubscription.
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