The Canadian Coast Guard has selected the Canadian company Telesat to provide ship to shore communications via satellite. This represents the second commercial phase for the European Space Agency (ESA) supported project Marine eCommerce Applications (MeCA).
MeCA started in 2005, when Telesat began offering Internet services to passengers aboard Canadian ferries. The new agreement with the Canadian government calls for Telesat to provide satellite equipment to selected Coast Guard vessels, which will be used to access e-mail, watch satellite television and use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones.
The project has recently completed its first phase at a Telesat testing facility. In phase two, which began in April 2006, the first vessel in the Coastguard’s Maritimes region has been equipped with the satellite equipment. Phase 3 will involve installation and training as well as introduction of the system to the four remaining Coast Guard regions:
For each ship, Telesat will provide a satellite terminal with a full-motion antenna system and modem which is connected to Telesat's telecoms port. The same equipment is suitable for vessels of all sizes and the full system rollout is expected to be completed within two-and-a-half years.
The satellite signal will be delivered via Telesat's Anik F2 satellite. The satellite uses Ku-band and is capable of delivering Internet speeds of approximately two megabits per second. MeCA is an extremely robust, fully redundant system that will offer extremely high availability.
The MeCA project, which is supported by ESA’s Telecommunication Department, was a test-bed for future Internet-at-sea projects like the one currently under way with the Coast Guard. MeCA acted as a proving ground for the antennas and terminal equipment.