December 2004/January 2005 
Volume 03, Issue 8 
Special Features

Connexion ahoy!

Maritime testing of the mobile communications system goes well in the North Atlantic


Connexion ahoy!Connexion by Boeing has gone to sea.

An experiment that migrated in October 2003 from a test lab in Kent, Wash., to a boat on a lake near Seattle is nearing completion more than a year later, aboard a ship traversing the sea lanes of the North Atlantic. Connexion by Boeing engineers are wrapping up a demonstration of the mobile, satellite-relayed communications system aboard an oceangoing vessel.

For Connexion, one of Boeing's newest business units, a key element of staying competitive is to make greater use of the satellite coverage already arranged for its airborne customers. The Connexion service made its full-scale commercial debut aboard Lufthansa German Airlines in May and on Japan's All Nippon Airways last month; and soon SAS and Japan Airlines will deploy the system. Connexion is served by satellites covering vast portions of the northern hemisphere; coverage gradually will be expanded to include the southern hemisphere.

The latest demonstration of maritime service began in September aboard a Teekay Shipping oil tanker named the Hamane Spirit. When the test concludes this month, it will help determine whether maritime vessels can benefit from the same broadband connectivity that is revolutionizing the way airlines and their passengers make use of their time while mobile.

"The maritime market offers us the opportunity to serve thousands of ships, and this testing has helped us demonstrate the value our global network can bring to travelers at sea," said Connexion by Boeing Maritime Services director Sean Schwinn.

After receiving authorization in September 2003 from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, Connexion by Boeing engineers—working with colleagues from Phantom Works, Integrated Defense Systems and Shared Services—successfully conducted several tests of maritime connectivity. They used a private vessel, equipped with a stabilized dish antenna and radome that Phantom Works integrated with a modem and special control and monitoring software. They used the system to send and receive e-mail via the Internet and Boeing intranet, and to view sites on the World Wide Web.

The tests took place on a lake and in Puget Sound near Seattle during relatively calm weather and seas, so Connexion approached Teekay, based in Vancouver, Canada, and reached agreement to do a more extensive test aboard an oceangoing oil tanker. The benefits of this testing were numerous:

  • The ship would be far away from shore, beyond the coverage of existing line-of-sight communications.
  • It would be subjected to extremes of weather and sea conditions. Maritime testing of the mobile communications system goes well in the North Atlantic ahoy! Connexion
  • It would travel on many different shipping routes, taking it in and out of satellite coverage.

Testing also called for doing things not economically feasible with existing narrowband communications, such as sending and receiving large files, full access to the World Wide Web, and private voice service telephony over the Internet.

By demonstrating the ability of the Connexion by Boeing system to transmit broadband data from a ship to a satellite and then a ground station, the test team recalled another such occasion, when the path had been reversed. In February 1999, Boeing Aviation Information Services, the predecessor of Connexion by Boeing, used a phased-array antenna to receive digital broadcast satellite television signals aboard the USS Mount Whitney, a U.S. Navy command and control ship.


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