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Marine Electronics Journal Blog

Best satellite TV and VSAT for 2018


Talk to just about any marine electronics dealer or manufacturer and you’ll hear similar comments that boaters want the same convenience and connectivity on board that they have at home. This means communications, both voice and data, along with the ability to watch live sports, TV or movies when they want—even if they’re way offshore. Fortunately, there’s equipment on the market that can do this and more.

Everyone knows about satellite TV, especially if you live in an area not served by cable. A big difference between terrestrial systems and those on boats at sea is the antenna. Most of the dishes you see on houses are fixed. Those installed on boats for use away from the marina have an intricate mechanism under the protective dome that keeps the antenna pointed at specific satellites despite the vessel being tossed around by wind and waves. Technically, these systems are called stabilized marine antennas—the internal multi-axes hardware adjusts for the vessel’s pitching, rolling and yawing movements.

VSAT isn’t as familiar to a lot of boaters. VSAT stands for Very Small Aperture Terminal. Like satellite TV, the system’s antenna is contained in a dome. But rather than pulling in TV signals, VSAT links boaters to the Internet, provides phone services and a variety of IP (Internet Protocol) applications.


Below are satellite TV and VSAT systems that rate high in terms of functionality and performance. The lineup is part of an exercise that Marine Electronics Journal does every year. We call it the Best & Brightest Boating Electronics—it works like this:

We ask manufacturers to identify the one model they produce in a particular category that they consider to be their Best & Brightest—not necessarily the most technically advanced or newest but rather the one they rate highest in the product line for one reason or another. Could be the functions and features it offers, or maybe it breaks new ground in maximizing effectiveness or utility, or maybe it’s the most popular as measured by sales to boaters.

There are 17 categories in all­, ranging from autopilots and fishfinders to vessel monitoring systems and multi-function displays---MFDs. We’ve reported on electronics in these categories for several weeks but interrupted the series for the past two weeks to report on the winners of the NMEA Product of Excellence Awards and the NMEA Technology Award. Click HERE to see the Product of Excellence Awards and HERE for the Technology Award.


Sat TV


KVH TracVision TV3

Consistently a top seller, the TracVision TV3 is in particularly high demand now as sales of small and mid-size sportfishers and cruising boats escalate. This compact 37 cm (14.5 inch) antenna, featuring a single-cable design, is easy to install, set up, and use. A great choice for powerboats or sailboats frequenting cruising areas located within 100 nautical miles offshore, the TracVision TV3 supports DIRECTV, DISH Network, Bell TV, and circular and linear Ku-band regional services worldwide. The IP-enabled TracVision TV-Hub includes built-in Ethernet and WiFi for easy interface with smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, and computers, providing quick access to system information. The ideal solution for single- or multiple-receiver installations, the TracVision TV3 was recognized with NMEA’s 2017 Product of Excellence Award.


Intellian s6HD

The Intellian s6HD is a dual-band, two-axis marine satellite antenna system capable of receiving three DIRECTV satellite signals simultaneously, enabling boaters to enjoy high-definition TV channels just like at home. Using a simple connection to the antenna, the Intellian s6HD uses a single wiring multi-switch (SWM), which enables 16 receivers to view all DIRECTV channels with the possibility to upgrade to 32 SWM receivers or DVRs. The s6HD is also compatible with general Ku-band receivers such as DISH Network, Bell TV and DIRECTV local channel programming services. The antenna’s stylish polished radome design makes it an ideal fit for boats over 45 feet. See more for less, with Intellian’s s6HD.


Sea Tel 120 TVHD

Cobham’s Sea Tel 120 TVHD (1.2 meter) antenna system is a dual-band solution that features an advanced three-port feed and LNB capable of simultaneously receiving all three of the main satellites that DIRECTV broadcasts its high definition and standard definition programming. The Sea Tel 120 TVHD and 1 meter version Sea Tel 100 TVHD are also capable of receiving worldwide Ku-Band high-definition and standard-definition programming without having to make adjustments to the hardware. Both feature three-axis stabilization for reliable operation in all weather and sea conditions. They are rigorously tested on a unique maritime antenna testing platform, using motion and conditions encountered on a huge range of craft, ensuring reliability and longevity, even when used in extreme conditions and climates.


Intellian v65

Intellian's v65 is a 60 cm class Ku/Ka convertible satellite communications system with exceptional RF (radio frequency) performance that is poised to drive adoption of new connectivity solutions in the mobility market by making access to both Ku- and Ka-band on the same antenna system simple and cost-effective. Built upon the same pedestal as Intellian’s GX60 terminal, which is currently deployed on vessels using Inmarsat’s Ka-band Fleet Xpress service, v65 makes Intellian the world’s only manufacturer to offer both 1 meter and 65 cm Ku/Ka convertible antenna systems. The company’s 1 meter platform is a very popular maritime VSAT system, currently in operation across both frequencies, including on Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) network. 


KVH TracPhone V7-HTS

KVH’s TracPhone V7-HTS is a rugged, powerful, and compact (60 cm/24 inch diameter) Ku-band VSAT antenna delivering global coverage with download/upload speeds as fast as 10 Mbps/3 Mbps. The system features automatic fast switching among high-speed network beams for seamless communications. With innovative hybrid airtime plans that deliver a free unlimited use data channel running at the same time as an ultra-fast channel, the TracPhone V7-HTS helps ensure that everyone onboard has the connectivity they need, anywhere at sea. The system’s belowdecks unit, called the Integrated CommBox Modem (ICM), includes modem, network manager, Ethernet switches, WiFi, and the ability to deliver news and entertainment content. The secure “myKVH” portal with mini-VSAT Manager provides unmatched data usage control and monitoring.


Sailor 600 VSAT Ku

The SAILOR 600 VSAT Ku offers the perfect balance between form factor and performance, enabling high-throughput, global maritime broadband for more vessels. It is a super light yet rugged solution that can be installed without a crane, but is capable of delivering the reliability, stability and high throughput usually only possible with larger antennas. Sporting a lightweight carbon fiber composites/aluminium design, Cobham’s 60 cm-class Ku-band antenna system provides unmatched performance on wide-beam satellites and forthcoming Ku-band High Throughput Satellite (HTS) constellations, such as Intelsat’s EpicNG. Delivering increased service availability, it also enables the fastest, most-cost-effective VSAT installation, thanks to its low-weight and compact footprint combined with one cable between antenna and below deck unit and easy commissioning.




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Comments | Leave a Comment
Page 1 of 3 ( 13 comments)

Jp:(8/11/2018 5:28:29 PM) "I have a 2018 Yamaha f40 la and Humminbird helix 7 di , I would like to leverage the nema 2000 capability of the helix 7 to display engine info, what do I need , Humminbird does have a gateway and lowrance makes a Yamaha nema cable, but I'm reading connectors are proprietary . How can I get what is needed?

Since these products are not NMEA 2000 certified there is little assurance that they will share data with each other.

1. Here is the link to see all NMEA 2000 certified products:

2. The NMEA 2000 cables and connectors are from many manufacturers: Here is the link for approved cables and connector manufacturers:

AC/DC grounding distance:(8/2/2018 1:29:35 AM) "What about the grounding points of AC /DC systems? can they be grounded at the same point?
If one system has both AC and DC can they both be grounded to a common buss-bar that has only one conection to the hull?

Here's what Ed Sherman, electric tech guru at the American Boat & Yacht Council, said:

The ultimate goal should always be to tie ac and dc grounds together on board at a single point. In ABYC Standard E-11, it is described as “the engine negative terminal or its buss.” It is most commonly done at a buss."
Hard-Over with Brushed APilot Pump:(12/18/2017 5:37:05 PM) "Jim.
What do you mean by ...."Garmin GHP 20 with SmartPump...Because it is a brushless system, it is fail-safe and won’t execute a hard-over turn the way a brushed pump can."

Thanks for the note. Since the description came from Garmin I contacted the company for an explanation. Here's what one of their engineers told me:

On brushed DC actuators, a single-point failure in the drive circuit (shorted wire or blown component inside the controller) could cause the motor to run full speed in one direction and take the rudder all the way to one rail. A brushless actuator relies on timing-controlled commutation, so a short or component fail would cause the actuator to stop moving rather than moving at full speed.

Hope this helps,

trawlerdeejay:(10/13/2017 3:46:51 PM) "Excellent article. I had no idea what the differences were between o183 and 2000, Thank you so much."
Darryl:(3/27/2017 10:17:15 PM) "Putting the MSRP with each unit reviewed would have been helpful. If each unit was actually tested, the reports on each unit would have been helpful too.

Thanks Darryl---we generally don't mention prices due to confusion over so many variations---MSRP (mfg. suggested retail price), MAP (min. advertised price), MRP (min. resale price) and then there are internet prices on some websites that go their own way. But your point is well taken--buyers need to know if something is in their price range. We'll work on it.
There is independent testing of some of these products on sites like but the information we receive from manufacturers rarely cites the results of any shootouts they may conduct against the competition's products. "
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