In a project designed to make the transition from sea-to-shore internet networks seamless, the French company Udcast has completed sea trials. Tested on the Mediterranean Sea, the trial involved two maritime vessels and was successful.
The project which began earlier this year, is attempting to create a network architecture enabling seamless 'mobile routers' from several feeders and several interactive networks. The system will ultimately benefit any sea-going vessel to maintain its seamless internet connectivity while a ship leaves or enters port, without the current difficulty of transmission break. Existing alternatives such as MobileIPv4 and 'Local Area Mobility' are being included in the study and the project will be an improvement on current solutions.
While at sea, a ship's internet connection is purely satellite based. Closer to shore, GSM and W-LAN are used. When docked, landlines and W-LAN provide the ship with a connection. Currently, switching from one to the other results in a disruption in connectivity. The UDcast system allows for seamless transference by using a heterogeneous IP network with the added benefit of reducing fees to users.
Their approach involves different feeders corresponding to different spot beams for the forward-link. These feeders perform all IP related processing especially the switching beween the different spot beams. The feeders accomplish this by using a terrestrial network which maintains connectivity to each of the feeders. Mobile receivers / routers have DVB-S capabilities to receive feeder signal and an Ethernet connection to a LAN for routing traffic on board.
The benefits of such a system are not limited to maritime applications. A host of other mobility concepts such as aircraft and even road vehicles can make use of a seamless internet connection. It will also allow fixed terminals to receive data from both satellite and terrestrial sources simultaneously, with improved transfer performance as a result.