New Satellite Communications and Media Equipment

Communications and media beamed from space free up large tracts of sea for comfortable cruising.


Solid-State Sats Iridium's new OpenPort system is unique in the world of marine broadband satellite communications. Its coverage is truly global, high latitudes included, because some of its many low-orbit birds pass over the poles. And lurking under that 9-inch-high, 23-inch-diameter dome is not a mechanically stabilized antenna but rather the equivalent of several dozen Iridium solid-state handsets linked together. Thus, it promises low maintenance and power consumption, even while simultaneously providing three voice lines and an Internet connection configurable up to 128 kbps. Iridium leaves pricing to its distributors, some of whom are offering the hardware for about $5,000 and data from $6 to $22 a megabyte, depending on contracted speed and volume.

Iridium, (866) 947-4348; ****

| | |

Wee Dome

With the advent of FleetBroadband 150 this summer, nearly global high-performance Inmarsat satellite communications can be had from a dome just 13 inches high, such as this new KVH TracPhone model. The FB150, at 150 kbps, is a little slower than its larger FB250 and 500 siblings, but, like them, it boasts the ability to handle clear voice calls, web browsing, file downloads, and SMS messages simultaneously and easily. The TracPhone FB150 also matches KVH's new TracVision M1 satellite TV dome. The little dome and its versatile BDU (belowdecks unit) retail for $7,495, but significant discounts are available, depending on service commitment.

KVH, (401) 847-3327; ****

| | |

Five in One

Intellian's new D4 and D6 domes are for TV, not voice/Internet, but many boaters want their domes (and providers) to match, and Intellian has already announced Inmarsat domes in two sizes. What's notable about the 18- inch D4 and 24-inch D6 (which has greater range) is their ability to tune in all DirectTV standard and high-definition channels, even though they're now coming from five different satellites using two different frequencies. Before the D series, this could only be done with dual domes, and they were made by Intellian (SeaTel recently introduced a 50- inch dome that can also tune in all five DirecTV satellites). The included antenna control unit (ACU) can connect to as many as six DirectTV receivers, which can access any channel available on the satellite automatically selected by the "master" receiver, and master status can be easily switched from, say, salon to master stateroom.

Intellian Technologies, (888) 201-9223; ****