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Old 14-07-2012, 17:47   #1
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Has anyone experience running TracPhone Vx or Inmarsat FleetBroadband ?

To make my plan come true I need a very reliable internet access everywhere. Seems even in coastal area Wifi is just not that reliable as on land. So my decision is to get a TracPhone V3. Since this piece is quite expensive (16k ?!) I need to know how reliable that precious thing works.

My concerns are :
- how reliable can it hold a fix
- how reliable is it built (mean time between failures ?)
- how often is the service not available
- do you think a backup is necessary ? for ex. Inmarsat ?

Would appreciate any feedback !
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Old 15-07-2012, 16:40   #2
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Re: Has anyone experience running TracPhone Vx or Inmarsat FleetBroadband ?

Zonker,
Since you make no mention of what your "plan" is, where/how long you'll be executing your "plan", nor what/how your internet access will be used, it is difficult for anyone to give you specific advice....although I assume that KVH, SeaTel, INMARSAT, etc. (and Furuno, Sailor, etc.) have already done so...(but, if that were the case, would you be here inquiring???)
Ah, yes....it is the weekend (so you cannot get specifics from the sales reps until tomorrow), and you're mind is whirling with all the "stuff" that they've given you....

Whatever the case...you're here asking some specific questions...and I can offer you answers....
So, here goes....


1) I'm very familar with mini-VSAT systems / the KVH V3 and V7 (and their new V11), as well as other VSAT systems and INMARSAT FleetBroadband systems....
(but, I have no experience with a "Vx" system, technology changes rapidly and perhaps me being occupied with family matters has kept me from keeping up-to-date???)


2) With any of these systems there ARE limitations (see below), and the monthly costs prevent all but the very serious business users, offshore researchers, etc. from even considering these as their primary internet access....

Since there are wide variations in users, it's difficult to pin down exact
numbers, but the range for even the smaller users is from $1000 to $2000 per month!!!
Figure on about $1 / Mb of data used, per month, plus monthly fees, equipment amoritization, etc....

{FYI, I'm not a big data user, and neither are my friends....but a good friend of mine just got a new iPhone and data plan....and coincidencely just yesterday told me that he's used almost 30% of his "free" data for an entire month in just one week....
Specifically, he used just under 600Mb in one week, and he's not a big data user.....(if he was suing a mini-VSAT terminal, his month data costs would be about $2400 / month!!!)....and that's on an iPhone....
I shudder to think how much data the average small business user passes thru in a month.....
And, I've personally heard from Fleet Braodband users (and other satellite data users) who've found monthly bills of > $5000 / month....
Just something for you to understand and think about...}



3) Understand that most VSAT systems (such as the KVH V3 and V7) are Ku-band systems, and DO require an absolute clear line-of-sight to the satellite to be maintained at all times.....that means no shadows/blank zones from masts, booms, superstructure, awnings, etc....
AND, just like a DirecTV / DISH Network satellite signal, they will also suffer from rain / precipitation outages (which can be worse at sea, since the 3-axis stabilization is more difficult when the weather is bad....and as such, the antenna will not be as precisely positioned as when in calm seas....)

Generally, the bigger the dish/antenna the better the system works (the more reliable it is)....due to both, higher C/N (lower bit-error rates), AND higher link budget margins (allowing operation in rain, etc.)






4) You ask about the reliability of VSAT and INMARSAT systems (which are very reliable) and also include wi-fi in your mix???
So, I'm wondering what your application is....as those looking at VSAT systems (not cruising boats) are not the users of coastal wi-fi (most cruising boats)????
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zonker View Post
To make my plan come true I need a very reliable internet access everywhere. Seems even in coastal area Wifi is just not that reliable as on land.
But, again you ask some specifics, so I'll do what I can....






5) To your specific queries....
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zonker View Post
So my decision is to get a TracPhone V3. Since this piece is quite expensive (16k ?!) I need to know how reliable that precious thing works.
a) It works very well, and does what it is designed to do....it is a very basic/entry-level VSAT terminal....
b) Understand the limitations of all Ku-band VSAT systems (see above), and the limited coverage using the Ku-band systems (not worldwide!!!)
c) There should be detailed coverage maps available from any vendor / service provider / manufacturer......but, in general, expect coverage across the N. Atl. Med, much of the N. Indian Ocean and much of the N. Pacific Ocean......and only coastal waters off S. Amer., Africa, etc....but no coverage in S. Pac, S. Atl, nor S. Indian Oceans....
d) Do NOT forget the installation costs!!!! They will not be minor!!!






Quote:
Originally Posted by Zonker View Post
My concerns are :
- how reliable can it hold a fix
- how reliable is it built (mean time between failures ?)
- how often is the service not available
- do you think a backup is necessary ? for ex. Inmarsat ?
e) You can beleive the specs in regard to pitch/roll/yaw correcting, so as long as your vessel moves within those specs (and you're not in a rain shower AND you are in an area of coverage), it will hold a fix on the satellite.....
f) I don't have the MTBF data off the top of my head, but you can get that from KVH, etc....but, as long as it is properly installed (VERY important), in my opinion, you can expect years of reliable service...
g) How often service is "un-available", depends on how often you're outside the coverage areas.....
h) A back-up wouldn't usually be necesary from the equipment reliability point-of-view....but, if you do require coverage in areas that the VSAT systems do not cover, then a Iridium Pilot (OpenPort) or INMARSAT Fleet Braodband would be required....




6) Upgrading ($$$$$) to a C-band/Ku-band VSAT system (such as the KVH V11) will allow you almost complete worlwide/global coverage (excluding areas above 70* - 75* latitude)......and the use of C-band will remove the "rain outage" issue of Ku-band systems....
BUT,unless you've got a serious mega-yacht, this is WAY over the top...these are VERY pricey (and Big and Heavy).....and I can't imagine anyone here on Cruiser's Forum even considering these....



7) INMARSAT Fleet Broadband and/or Iridium OpenPort / Pilot, services and equipemnt are both L-band systems, with NO rain-outage issues, and much less sensitive antenna pointing requirements, etc....(the Iridium OP / Pilot uses non-directional phased antennas, thru their Low-Earth-Orbiting satellites)
And, as such both are much more reliable for offshore operations and both offer worldwide/global coverage (excepting areas above 70* - 75* latitude, for INMARSAT systems)....

With Fleet Broadand's rate increases, Iridium Pilot (aka Open Port) is now becoming the more economical of the two....albeit, Fleet Broadband can offer faster speeds with their FB250 and FB500 systems....Iridium Pilot's speed is comparable to FB150....




[FYI, every few months someone posts questions similar to yours.....and most times they find the truth isn't what the want to hear/read.....so, please understand that you will not be alone in your reaction here!!!
Hey, what's that old saying....
"There's what people want to hear, what they want to believe, 'everything else' and then the 'truth'...." ]



I do hope this answers your questions....

Fair winds...

John
s/v Annie Laurie
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Old 15-07-2012, 17:58   #3
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Re: Has anyone experience running TracPhone Vx or Inmarsat FleetBroadband ?

John - thanks a lot for your feedback !

My "plan" is to live on a boat ... :-) ... and since I am not willing to live on $500/mo budget my plan is to work on the boat - as a (securities) trader. I've started 7 years ago and worked 100% and "educated" myself in trading 100+% - I am pretty "burned out" by now. But the time has come everything seems to lining up well until I realized how depended I am on a "fast and low latency" internet. As I digged through the web and also adjusted my trading strategies my requirements have been lowered - internet access needs to be very reliable and must provide a certain bandwidth (128 kbit would be sufficient).

I've inserted my comments in your feedback :

Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
Zonker,
Ah, yes....it is the weekend (so you cannot get specifics from the sales reps until tomorrow), and you're mind is whirling with all the "stuff" that they've given you....
Well the sales persons promise everything to make you buy the product ! I needed hard facts !


Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
1) I'm very familar with mini-VSAT systems / the KVH V3 and V7 (and their new V11), as well as other VSAT systems and INMARSAT FleetBroadband systems....
(but, I have no experience with a "Vx" system, technology changes rapidly and perhaps me being occupied with family matters has kept me from keeping up-to-date???)
x = 3,7,11 - so V3, V7, V11


Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
2) very serious business users, offshore researchers, etc. from even considering these as their primary internet access....
That would be acceptable - of course if profits are made otherwise it sucks !


Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
3) Understand that most VSAT systems (such as the KVH V3 and V7) are Ku-band systems, and DO require an absolute clear line-of-sight to the satellite to be maintained at all times.....that means no shadows/blank zones from masts, booms, superstructure, awnings, etc....
AND, just like a DirecTV / DISH Network satellite signal, they will also suffer from rain / precipitation outages (which can be worse at sea, since the 3-axis stabilization is more difficult when the weather is bad....and as such, the antenna will not be as precisely positioned as when in calm seas....)

Generally, the bigger the dish/antenna the better the system works (the more reliable it is)....due to both, higher C/N (lower bit-error rates), AND higher link budget margins (allowing operation in rain, etc.)

4) You ask about the reliability of VSAT and INMARSAT systems (which are very reliable) and also include wi-fi in your mix???
So, I'm wondering what your application is....as those looking at VSAT systems (not cruising boats) are not the users of coastal wi-fi (most cruising boats)????
But, again you ask some specifics, so I'll do what I can....
I was thinking of the following setup (for the first trip costal crusing in Europe) :
1) marinas : use wifi -> most marinas offer wlan access
2) coastal : use wifi -> reality is that coverage can vary a lot. On countryside it's most likely you dont have a connection. So a sat internet is reqiured - and there the troubles arised !
3) offshore : use sat internet -> it's expensive but if limiting to minimal use then that should be acceptable.

mini-VSAT
pros : $1 / MB, cons : availability very depending on environemnt ! except for V11

FleetBroadband
pros : most likely avail and much cheaper antenna, cons : $10 / MB

OpenPort
pros : most likely avail and much cheaper antenna, cons : $10 / MB and bandwidth (up to 128kbit basically - lets face it - means 9.6kbit guaranteed !)

bottom line

==> it's a V3/V11 or a FleetBroadband 150/250 ... but the intital cost is just outrageous (especially for Vx'es)

==> if someone can confirm that OpenPort average bandwidth is more on the 128kbit side then 9.6kbit side ... yes that might be an option and could be used later as a backup system


Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
With Fleet Broadand's rate increases, Iridium Pilot (aka Open Port) is now becoming the more economical of the two....albeit, Fleet Broadband can offer faster speeds with their FB250 and FB500 systems....Iridium Pilot's speed is comparable to FB150....
Prospectus of OpenPort says "up to" 128kbit - I fear the true bandwidth is MUCH lower.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
[FYI, every few months someone posts questions similar to yours.....and most times they find the truth isn't what the want to hear/read.....so, please understand that you will not be alone in your reaction here!!!
Hey, what's that old saying....
"There's what people want to hear, what they want to believe, 'everything else' and then the 'truth'...." ]
Well you gotta keep yourself up to date ... for ex V11 came out on June, before Tracphones were no candidates - if the antenna costs only a little bit more then a V7 and having a time horizon of lets say 10 years for my "plan" - I'd say it would be the perfect solution. Ok gotta have a boat large enough ...

Anyway your feedback especially mentioning OpenPort was very helpful.
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Old 15-07-2012, 18:51   #4
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If you plan to do trading or other financial transactions then the connection will surely be secured via SSL either with HTTPS or a VLAN. Both are practically unusable over satellite due to the long latency between earth and the satellite. I've lived through it on land based satellite internet and it is very, very painful and often doesn't work at all. I think you would be wasting your money buying one of those systems.

I've been coastal cruising up through canada for the past 2 months and so far have been without wifi internet only 2 evenings, and we've been in some pretty remote locations. I haven't tried to stay on line via wifi while under way because its too much of a nuisance to keep searching for open sites and hopping around. While underway, we use 3G data via an ipad, or you can get adapters for a laptop too. I've had coverage 99% of the trip. That leaves off shore travel, and for that perhaps you could call in trades to someone else?
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Old 15-07-2012, 20:56   #5
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Re: Has anyone experience running TracPhone Vx or Inmarsat FleetBroadband ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by twistedtree View Post
If you plan to do trading or other financial transactions then the connection will surely be secured via SSL either with HTTPS or a VLAN. Both are practically unusable over satellite due to the long latency between earth and the satellite. I've lived through it on land based satellite internet and it is very, very painful and often doesn't work at all. I think you would be wasting your money buying one of those systems.
Hm ... if video streaming is possible over sat internet, then I would strongly assume a "little bit" of HTTPS w/o real latency constraint should be well supported. As a matter of fact - it is and I am talking of mini-VSAT and Inmarsat. I don't know how well OpenPort does.

May be you are talking about the crappy Globalstar ...


Quote:
Originally Posted by twistedtree View Post
I've been coastal cruising up through canada for the past 2 months and so far have been without wifi internet only 2 evenings, and we've been in some pretty remote locations. I haven't tried to stay on line via wifi while under way because its too much of a nuisance to keep searching for open sites and hopping around. While underway, we use 3G data via an ipad, or you can get adapters for a laptop too. I've had coverage 99% of the trip.
I've tested that - it's a real issue. What you might get is may be 9.6kbit - if at all (GPRS) - and that is according to some vendors "internet connectivity". So you guys are lucky up in Canada if you get more !

Quote:
Originally Posted by twistedtree View Post
That leaves off shore travel, and for that perhaps you could call in trades to someone else?
I am a trader and not an investor - and trading strategy is very latency sensitive. Lets call it marine-frequency-trading ...
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Old 15-07-2012, 21:25   #6
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I think Zonker you will have a hard time meeting your requirements, without mega money

Openport is as you say Upto a speed , typical speeds are much lower typically 32kbits( see www.panbo.com). Fleet broadband gives you guaranteed bandwidth but at mega cost ( recently increased) none of these services can really support streaming video.

On mini V sat and on Inmarsat platforms latency is a big issue and since TcP/IP has many line turnarounds there are many issues. There are some tricks to get around this. the uplink speed can be very very slow so client server apps can be more slower than the " sticker" speeds suggest

In reality small vessel broadband is still a bit of a pipe dream.

Finally what do think is a realistic monthly data budget you could live with that's often the major question

Dave
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Old 16-07-2012, 03:31   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zonker

Hm ... if video streaming is possible over sat internet, then I would strongly assume a "little bit" of HTTPS w/o real latency constraint should be well supported. As a matter of fact - it is and I am talking of mini-VSAT and Inmarsat. I don't know how well OpenPort does.

May be you are talking about the crappy Globalstar ...

I've tested that - it's a real issue. What you might get is may be 9.6kbit - if at all (GPRS) - and that is according to some vendors "internet connectivity". So you guys are lucky up in Canada if you get more !

I am a trader and not an investor - and trading strategy is very latency sensitive. Lets call it marine-frequency-trading ...
My direct experience has all been with Hughesnet, and my last setup was KuBand if i recall correctly, but i'm not a sat technology expert, just a user. It was advertised as over 1Mb downlink (i think 1.6, but am not certain. In practice it was much lower, say in the 100-200Kb range. Uplink is about 1/5 to 1/10 of the downlink speed.

But the problem is the latency which was around 500ms. Some protocols are insensitive to it, where others are very sensitive. It depends on how much back and forth the protocol involves. My experience using it was:

Streaming video is a largely unidirectional protocol and is very insensitive to latency once its going. For me it worked if the video quality is kept down, but it will also eat up your bandwidth very quickly. But it could also be very broken up. I'd say it worked 25% of the time durring business and evening hours, and 80% of the time after 9pm.

Web browsing works ok because it too is largely unidirectional downloads. Browsing worked, but appeared slow, even compared to an iPad on 3G.

SSL is the killer, and its whats behind HTTPS and VLANs. I don't know the innards personally, but i understand it involves lots of back and forth which is the most sensitive to latency. In practice, HTTPS web sites were painful at a minimum, and unusable other times. Placing an order on Amazon, for example, was something you'd allocate 15-20 minutes to do. My company had VLAN, and I'd connect in only to get my Exchange email - nothing more. Once connected, I'd go find something else to do for 15m to an hr while it downloaded my mail. Is anything included an attachment, all bets were off onhow long it would take. I'd say that SSL over sat is qualitatively equivalent to the old dialup world.

Keep in mind that more bandwidth helps speed up SSL, but only a little bit since the long latency is the long pole in the tent. There are TCP trick to help as well, and they do help some, but what I'm describing is with all the trick applied.

Is there any way that you can take a laptop to a dealer, connect over the satellite, run you apps and do your trades during prime time, see how it works, and see how much bandwidth you use and hence what it will cost?
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Old 16-07-2012, 08:59   #8
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Re: Has anyone experience running TracPhone Vx or Inmarsat FleetBroadband ?

Zonker,
You're welcome....

I'm afraid I don't have the time to take you thru this step-by-step.....this is what I do for paying clients...


But, if you are serious about this endeavor, and if you don't mind a few blunt opinions, you WILL find that these will help you out....
(even though these are FREE opinions, and you usually get what you pay for......please take these 3 opinions/thoughts seriously, and save yourself some aggrevation!!)

1) You seem to be confusing satellite communications professionals with consumer electronics salesmen.....
Please understand that the guys at INMARSAT, SeaTel, KVH, Iridium, etc. are NOT going to recommend products / services that will not work for you...they're honest professionals....

Even if don't wish to believe my words, understand that they make most of their profit from the monthly service fees (especially VSAT services!), not from selling hardware....so, if it doesn't work for you / you cannot use it, they make no profit!!!



2) It appears to me, that you are not certain of your communications "plan", and you are looking to on-line discussion boards for professional advice????

There are two much better ways to gain professional recommendations....

a) Discusss you needs and desires (usually 2 different things) with the service providers (KVH, SeaTel, Iridium, INMARSAT, etc.) and take their recommendations seriously....

or...

b) Hire a professional independent communications consultant (one who specializes in sat comm), and take his/her recommendations seriously....
(You'll typically pay from $500 - $1000 per day, with a $1000 min, for someone that really knows their field....)

And, understand that I'm NOT soliticing your business, as I am mostly retired, caring for my elderly Mom.....
But, there are many consulatants that will be able to help you....and many sat comm firms that have ind. consultants available as well....
And, remember in the area of true professionals, you DO get what you pay for!!!



3) It also appears that you are misunderstanding Iridium's specs...
Iridium Pilot (aka OpenPort) DOES provide 128k data thruput...IF you have the plan that supplies that....(their "plans" are a bit hard to understand!)
They use the words "up to 128k", in order to be HONEST, as not everyone is willing to spend the $$$ for the higher-priced (and higher-speed) plan....

If you contact Iridium, or Telarus specifically, you'll get all the details you desire....



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Zonker, if you take only one thing away from this discussion, I would hope it would be #2 above...
Since you seem confused/unsure of your communications plan, AND since you obviously can afford the costs involved in private VSAT's, Fleet Broadband, etc. as well as the costs of the mega-yacht to mount all of this on....then you certainly can afford to hire a professional consultant!!!

So, my advice is for you to do so.....and save yourself the aggrevation that you're currently experiencing....




Take care and Fair winds...

John
s/v Annie Laurie
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Old 16-07-2012, 09:25   #9
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Re: Has anyone experience running TracPhone Vx or Inmarsat FleetBroadband ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by twistedtree View Post
My direct experience has all been with Hughesnet, and my last setup was KuBand if i recall correctly, but i'm not a sat technology expert, just a user. It was advertised as over 1Mb downlink (i think 1.6, but am not certain. In practice it was much lower, say in the 100-200Kb range. Uplink is about 1/5 to 1/10 of the downlink speed.
That is what I fear when using Iridium/OpenPort !

Quote:
Originally Posted by twistedtree View Post
But the problem is the latency which was around 500ms.
I am aware of this and can handle up to 2000 ms (or even more).

Quote:
Originally Posted by twistedtree View Post
Keep in mind that more bandwidth helps speed up SSL, but only a little bit since the long latency is the long pole in the tent. There are TCP trick to help as well, and they do help some, but what I'm describing is with all the trick applied.
SSL handshaking ... yes that can be a PIA.

Quote:
Originally Posted by twistedtree View Post
Is there any way that you can take a laptop to a dealer, connect over the satellite, run you apps and do your trades during prime time, see how it works, and see how much bandwidth you use and hence what it will cost?
I've tested on a land based system (BGAN) - but that setup was way out of my budget.

==> ok - may be gotta explain my setup :

[zonker's client on sea] <-- sat, 128kbit, 2s latency --> [zonker's server on land] <-- fiber, max 250gbit, < 50ms latency --> [broker]

Client can send/receive "data" from a server in a very efficient way. Server also monitors running trades. Each trade comes with an emergency exit which is managed by the broker.

For ex. client needs IBM quotes from the last 60min on a 30sec basis :
"quote IBM 30s 60m"
1. string encrypted and sent via HTTP to server
2. decrypted by server
3. quotes prepared on "diff" basis
4. encrypted and sent back
5. client receives, decrypts and visualizes it

So the latency issue is not that important as long as the trading frequency is higher then lets say 1min. More critical is the speed - even it's not much to download - 9.6kbit is really really border line.

Btw all self-programmed ...
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Old 16-07-2012, 09:47   #10
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Re: Has anyone experience running TracPhone Vx or Inmarsat FleetBroadband ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
Zonker, if you take only one thing away from this discussion, I would hope it would be #2 above...
Since you seem confused/unsure of your communications plan, AND since you obviously can afford the costs involved in private VSAT's, Fleet Broadband, etc. as well as the costs of the mega-yacht to mount all of this on....then you certainly can afford to hire a professional consultant!!!

So, my advice is for you to do so.....and save yourself the aggrevation that you're currently experiencing....

Take care and Fair winds...

John
s/v Annie Laurie
John ... don't want to offend anyone here which is working for the sat internet business - but it's now all about my due diligence. I have been working with "professional consultants" for years and I have my opinions about them ...

What I hope to get from this thread is hands-on experience (from frustrated) users such as : product XY is crap, because YZ happens all the time. Such information you will not get from any sales person, consultant etc. just because they dont know it.

If you are to buy a sport supercar and have to decide between a Ferrari and an Aston Martin - do you think any sales person, "consultant" would say : may be better get a (cheap) Subaru, it does the same for less money ?!
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Old 16-07-2012, 10:01   #11
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Re: Has anyone experience running TracPhone Vx or Inmarsat FleetBroadband ?

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So the latency issue is not that important as long as the trading frequency is higher then lets say 1min. More critical is the speed - even it's not much to download - 9.6kbit is really really border line.
Sry - typo :

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Old 17-07-2012, 05:22   #12
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It sounds like you understand enough about the latency issues to know how the 0.5 sec IP message latency, with the dozen or two messages that likely take place in your example query, builds up to 5-10 seconds delay between issuing the query command and getting the response. Most people think it's the delay between hitting return and getting a response on the screen. If that works for you, then you will probably be OK. I just know I was completely dissatisfied with my Hughes system for my pedestrian uses, and only had it because there was no alternative including dialup. I would have definitely taken 3G over hughes, and probably dialup as well. The second i found a way to get long distance wifi, I paid the early termination fee and crushed the hughes equipment with my bull dozer. It was one of the happiest days of my life. Pretty sad, eh?
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Old 17-07-2012, 19:51   #13
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Re: Has anyone experience running TracPhone Vx or Inmarsat FleetBroadband ?

As far as I know land-based dishes are not that expensive ... but still it sucks.

Imho one should hava a proxy between the computer and sat router/modem which will block all the unnecessary request such as Ajax, Flash, Java etc

What would be really cools is the same stuff as windows xp built in firewall provides - where you have to enable port access (=request to a certain domain/path) to the outside.
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Old 18-07-2012, 16:02   #14
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Re: Has anyone experience running TracPhone Vx or Inmarsat FleetBroadband ?

Take a look into the Sailor 150 imo its as good as land based 3G but pulling data for charting/daytrading is going to kill your pocket i would think.
+/- USD$5-5.5K setup - You can install it yourself easy
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Old 18-07-2012, 23:54   #15
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Re: Has anyone experience running TracPhone Vx or Inmarsat FleetBroadband ?

I had a look into OpenPort - currently seems a good compromise. Bandwidth is not enough for internet surfing but for my purpose I think I am able to program a workaround.

Anyway - thanks a lot to all for your feedback !
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