The future of telecommunications

Hi! I’m a student at the Antwerp Maritime Academy and for my master thesis I am researching the future of telecommunications. I would like to ask a few questions to you all about GMDSS and other communications on board.

  1. Did anything change on board since the amendments to SOLAS chapter IV and V in according to GMDSS?
  2. Does your company use Inmarsat or Iridium? And what do you like/hate about it?
  3. What do you think that has to change on board in relevance to communications?
  4. Does your ship have Star Link? And what is your experience with this?
  5. What is your opinion on the future of telecommunications?

5 - At some point worldwide sat-comms will become so ubiquitous that anything else like HF radio will seem like an expensive museum exhibit that no one will even buy or turn on unless forced to for class compliance. Already newer iPhones can send an SOS text via satellite.
5a - At some point past that some technological disaster will make people realize that sat-comms can vanish quite quickly.


Local cell service on a boat with multiple internet supplier will be the future.
Your cell phone can use 911 etc and the tech will sort out the issue of what data gets added to that and where it goes

That is probably the future, but right now inshore a phone is a horrible way to make a distress call. We had an incident here where someone called 911 instead of the USCG, the 911 operators were somewhat confused as to exactly where the boat in distress was and how to get there. They ended up sending an ambulance down a dirt road to the shoreline on the other side of the river from where the boat was.
Even if you are smart enough to call the USCG directly, you still miss out on getting help from everyone near you unless the CG themselves does a broadcast for you. One Mayday I heard was for a guy having a heart attack and before the CG could even get through all their 20 questions everyone put on a lifejacket routine a boat broke in that was about 1/4 mile away with a doctor onboard who quickly came to the poor guy’s aid.

  • 911 service is supposed to show the phone’s location, my experience with this is very hit-and-miss.
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911 on a vessel will tag the gps details plus more along with it then into the system as per now
Wont have anything to do with the shore systems but everyone knows 911 so keep using it

That is a good goal. It does not happen that way now.
Funny conversation as a beta tester of a new satphone service:
Me - What happens if I call 911?
SatGuy - We will connect you to the 911 operator.
Me - Which one?
SatGuy - The one that answers here.
Me - So Loudon County Virginia 911 dispatch is going to do what if my boat is sinking halfway to the Azores or approaching Panama?
SatGuy - We need to think about this some more.

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The main advantage of GMDSS / VHF broadcast, is that it can be received by any potential good samaritan vessel nearby, entirely indepent of your knowing that they are around in the first place, and independent of any shoreside or spaceside infrastructure that may be compromised for various reasons. IMHO, even in the foreseeable future, it should not be superseded by satcom, but should be retained, at least as an adjunct and fallback. Sat phone is useful for directly and instantly contacting the relevant MRCC in remote areas. Cell phone may be a brittle coastal alternative for that, which I would not like to depend on. StarLink will be the way to go for all non-emergency communication and, maybe, future parallel multimodal emergency messaging.


Yes, I about jumped off the boat the first time the distress alarm went off, it was LOUD and I never heard if before. I have everything wired up so that the distress boat was highlighted on my plotter, no need to ask them where they were. It works really well :smiley: Too bad they hit the button by mistake :roll_eyes:

For non-compulsory boats the modern DSC system has raised the bar for HF radios. You can call for help on the voice channels all day long and you are very likely to never get an answer.

In the western Baltic, voice CH 16 is diligently monitored by Danish (MRCC Lyngbyradio) and German (MRCC Bremen Rescue) institutions via multiple coastal reception relays, although, of course, DSC is preferrable to alert nearby vessels.
(Sorry for digressing from thread question)

Go to the Guys who have written below magazine. They will answer all your questions.
shipinsight-communications-2018.pdf (7.8 MB)

and may be below will help:

Understanding_GMDSS.pdf (6.7 MB)
Inmarsat-Navigating-Everyday-Connectivities-at-Sea-2018_06.pdf (6.3 MB)

HF - not VHF. We still have voice watch on 16, but we don’t on the HF-SSB voice frequencies.

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Please excuse my sloppy reading :face_with_hand_over_mouth: same here with HF outphased.

You didnt understand.
The hardware on board is your cell phone but it still using the satcom to get out of your boat

Even then, imho standalone and robust VHF, independent of any shore- or space-side infrastructure or provider would be of value to directly alert potential good samaritan vessels in the vicinity, which will be closest at hand to provide physical assistance. Moreover, legacy technology may prove invaluable as fallback.

Loosely related argument: The current geopolitical situation with the vulnerability of, and reliance on, GPS may serve as a reminder not to carry all eggs in one basket…

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Hopw are you transmitting your position in an emergency automatically in these times with no gps, yes good point.
All navigation computers will need INS installed

  1. NO
  2. Internet
    4.Had it briefly for a project, it was amazing having connections even in the middle of the Atlantic.