KVH Creates One: Cell, Satellite and Wi-Fi in One Dome

New H-series antennas offer all-in-one connectivity for mariners.
Courtesy KVH KVH brings cellular, satellite and Wi-Fi together in one dome.

Cellular, satellite and Wi-Fi communications aren’t new. In fact, boat owners have been able to purchase antennas and cellular and satcom airtime packages for years.

The trouble, however, is that building a three-pronged communications system typically involves working with numerous vendors, paying several different bills, and—in the case of cellular and Wi-Fi—possibly dealing with rail- or belowdecks-mounted antennas that, while generally effective, simply don’t deliver the same line-of-sight performance as high-gain antennas mounted aloft.

KVH’s next-generation H30 ($20,000), H60 ($28,000) and H90 ($45,000)—for 30-, 60- and 90-plus-foot boats, respectively—are the first communications tools to incorporate cellular (5G/LTE), satellite and Wi-Fi antennas in a single radome. Better still, these antennas pump their ones and zeros to a rack-mounted belowdecks unit (BDU) via a super-fast Ethernet power-over-coaxial cable that moves data at 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps), about 10 times faster than the average home internet service.

Given that these systems currently transmit satcom data at a rate of only 2 to 3 Mbps and download it at a clip of 6 to 40 Mbps (depending on the system and data plan; see KVH’s website for details), this leaves a lot of extra bandwidth for future system requirements or developments.

These H-series antennas operate on KVH’s proprietary, end-to-end One hybrid network. Satellite communications are tackled by KVH’s proprietary network, and the Rhode Island-based manufacturer partners with a global cellular carrier for 5G/LTE airtime. Marina-based Wi-Fi signals are typically free (or bundled with dockage costs). One hybrid network users pay a single monthly bill to KVH, and they can adjust their plans as their cruising itineraries demand. (Rates start at $109 per month.)

Each H-series system operates its cellular, satcom and Wi-Fi connections as discrete virtual local area networks (VLANs). “The [BDU] box has access to all three [VLANs], and the box decides which to use,” says Robert Balog, KVH’s chief technology officer, explaining how the BDUs leverage a form of artificial intelligence to ensure lowest-cost data routing.

“There’s a rules-based AI that’s looking at things like trends,” he says. The system attempts Wi-Fi connectivity first, then cellular, then satcom. “It ranks connectivity and calculates a score for each connection. If it sees [this score] sliding, it will change connections.”

The BDU also features a graphical user interface that gives at-a-glance information about the system’s connectivity status. “That display is the slickest way to communicate what’s going on,” Balog says.

KVH further simplified things by offering cellular flexibility. Each H-series antenna has a KVH-supplied SIM card in its radome, and each BDU features an extra SIM slot. This is useful in places like the Bahamas, where local carriers often deliver better performance than international providers.

Finally, H-series systems are designed to keep your data safe and secure. “We incorporated state-of-the-art cybersecurity, from the lowest level of the bios all the way through the network security,” Balog says.

So, if you’re interested in an all-in-one communications solution that watches your wallet and your privacy, visit KVH’s website. Odds are excellent that you’ll experience faster cellular and Wi-Fi speeds while enjoying the reliability of KVH’s satcom connection. 

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