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The Internet

Internet for ships at sea 26

Robert Forsman writes "My uncle tells me that Harbor Branch will have one of the first SeaNet kits. SeaNet is a project to extend the internet to ships at sea. Quite a feat considering that you have to point a satellite dish at a satellite ... from the deck of a heaving boat. Maybe 5 years from now you'll be able to get email from your buddies in the navy while they're underway, or receive email while on that ``getaway cruise''. " Not a boater myself, but I know plenty others who will appreciate this.
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Internet for ships at sea

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    US navy sailors can already send and recieve email while on cruise... not that fast, but the ability is there.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    When docked, Navy ships typically have T1 access through the base network. Once at sea, it depends on the size of the ship. A carrier will usually have a 128k uplink, whereas a small boy will do anything from 19.2 to 56. Keep in mind--that's 128k amongst 5000 sailors, airmen, and marines. Web access is restricted to a priveledged few, (reading /. from the middle of the Atlantic is *not* an easy task) however, email accounts are set up for everyone. There will be faster access coming in the future; reference the IT21 program for more info.
  • Isn't this the kind of thing you'd use Iridium for? LEO satellites whipping around, so you don't need to actually aim at a satellite. Would at least make it easier for ships that are heaving about the North Atlantic.
  • Ships at sea currently pay big money for differential GPS corrections, to get around the artificial error ("SA" = selective availability) introduced for civilians by the US Military. These corrections are currently sent by radio but could quite plausibly be transmitted over the Internet. Anyone with a high-spec GPS receiver and a full-time Internet connection could then start transmitting corrections; you wouldn't need to pay extra for a radio transmitter. Of course, you need to be physically within around a hundred kilometers of the corrections station for the corrections to be at their best accuracy.
  • I worked on the SALTS project for the Navy after Desert Storm, that was in 91-93. We built a BBS and the ships used INMARSAT to connect over 19.2k modems. Try debugging zmodem transfers when the other side is pitching up and down in the Indian Ocean... The sailers could get/send emails from girlfriends, etc. and the supply officers could order 200,000 gallons of gas and whatnot. Of course, once you have a connection it was no big deal to switch over to the 'net.
  • Don't expect on this being cheap. I was on a cruise recently. The rate for ship-to-shore calls was $15.50 per minute (needless to say I made no such calls). Internet charges would undoubtedly be quite similar. I think I'll just temporarily unsubscribe from my mailing lists before going on vacation in the future, as I do now.
  • The NSA has been bouncing signals off the moon from their "research vessels" for decades. The Apollo folks even left reflectors up there to inprove the S/N. :-)
  • Ummmm... While I was in the navy 3 years ago, we had a full internet connection, though it was slow.

    I was browsing webpages, killing dragons on muds, and chatting on IRC. Oh did I mention sending email too???

    Course most of the ship I was on didnt know about it, and they also did not set up the workstations with a DNS server, meaning I had to find one and then tell my machine to look at it. So I was only one of 5 people (outside of ADP people) that could use it... unofficialy.

    Of course sometime you would lose connection for an hour or two depending on the direction ofthe ship. (sometimes the radar would be in the way of the satilite)

    Hehehe... This stuff is old news.

    They were officialy able to send offship mail using cc:Mail my entire time on the ship.

  • Oh, my Gawd, what is my Navy coming to?

    I can hear it now:

    "Conn, sonar...Transient, transient! Reboot noises! NT in the water, bearing two two seven!"

    If we're really doing the IT21 thing with NT, the USN is doomed and America is finished as a sea power. You Read It Here First. ;)
  • small boys on US Navy ships! shurely shome mishtake?

    My parents went on a cruise over Xmas and sent me email from - not sure what technology was used, but clearly, it's already available...
  • Unfortunately the technology that allows this costs a few hundred dollars a minute, which the US Navy can afford, the Canadian Navy can afford for non-personal messages and your average civilian cannot afford at all.

  • by wisof ( 8898 )
    Ships at sea have the equipment in place to stay fixed on a sat. while the ship is heaving. The same technology is used also in steading gun barrels for the large guns. Even the old (built in 1963 and I was in from 81-94) ship I was on had satcoms that stayed fixed on the sat no matter what the ship did.
  • I've always been a cruising buff as well as an Internet buff, so naturally I have followed this with some interest.

    What you need for dial-up quality access on boats is Inmarsat B. It costs $ 25,000 plus $ 5,000 for the 64k access software, according to a local retailer. From what I understand you can make the equivalent of a telephone call to the ISP of your choice - but someone more familiar with the technical aspects of it can clue us in better than I can.

    An unfortunate consequence that's easily overlooked is that unlike Iridium, Inmarsat requires a large antenna which apparently is only at home on 100' plus vessels.

    I have a friend who owns a 120' yacht and has Inmarsat B. It apparently works great for him; he's quite pleased with the service, and of course within the context of expenses on board a 120' yacht, what's outrageously expensive for us is affordable for him. The cost is $ 3-9 a minute, and the speed is 64k. He says that the cheaper, more portable phones don't work nearly as well as Inmarsat B, so he continues with it even though he could save some money by using some of the cheaper ($3/minute) solutions. Inmarsat B always works, he says.

    Unfortunately, it looks like the service on offer here is just repackaged Inmarsat B and as a result doesn't break any technical ground. It's unlikely to push prices any lower.

    Hope I'm wrong.

  • restricted from sending it. He was in position to launch some cruise missles

    Sorry, I'm in a weird mood today.
  • Uhh, those ships have some pretty serious equipment on board... stuff that makes sending and receiving standard eMial seem like kid games. FWIW, I sent and received several electronic mails from my brother the Marine while he was on a float out to the Mediteranean. I wonder what their bandwidth's like... *smirk*

  • This isn't the first sattelite/internet link out there. However, this might be the first cost effective internet hookup for those out on open seas.
  • A bunch of us have been toying w/ under-water high-speed wireless networking for some time. We have various types of things we've played with and some actually work okay. Anybody know of someone insane enough to sponser this kind of research? Atlantis must be wired! Can't give up looking at porn sites just because we are in Davy Jones locker! ;> I hate wires. Being wired in place is evil!
  • I'm one of the people working on the SeaNet project.

    Yes, the Seward-Johnson at HBOI is one of the first group of ships that will be outfitted with a SeaNet unit (there have been 5 selected for installation within the next few months). Still, you'll see e-mail from ships a lot sooner than 5 years. Quite a few oceanographic ships already have some e-mail capability. The SeaNet project is to allow the ships full Internet access, mostly in non-real time. Over the next 18-24 months we're planning on having the majority of the oceanographic fleet equipped with other types of ships being added shortly after that.

    Kevin Kimball
    Omnet, Inc.
  • Uhm... Inmarsat has been around for years and years, and has offered channels of 64kbps data via wearable (suitcase size) satelite equipment. One of Inmarsats primary uses has always been for ships at sea.

    Nothing fancy about that - it's old technology.

    The "new" thing about this has nothing to to with Inmarsat terminals, but with preparing infrastructure. If you've wanted to use Inmarsat for internet access before now, you'd to put together a custom solution (don't expect your ordinary ISP to be able to help you with support for Inmarsat equipment :-)

  • We have had e-mail access for years underway and got Internet access about 2 years ago. This is nothing new. Maybe it is for mainstream companies and boats, The technology we have on board would make your average nerd drool.

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll