EMS Enters the SatCom Fray

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Advances in communication services for ships and boats is expanding rapidly, keeping pace with development cycles of landside installations. Last autumn, Inmarsat unveiled Fleet F55 and Fleet F33, the two new members of the Fleet family designed to meet the communication needs of small to medium-sized vessels. Earlier this year, EMS SATCOM, a division of EMS Technologies, Inc., entered the maritime market with it pedigree of land-based communication solution expertise. At NorShipping in Oslo, the company announced that it has received full Inmarsat type-approval for its new Fleet 55 Maritime satellite terminal.

A New Path

EMS Technologies is a $310 million company with 1,800 employees worldwide. In 1968, Dr. John E. Pippin, then vice president of Research at Scientific-Atlanta, founded Electromagnetic Sciences (now EMS Technologies) in Atlanta, Ga. The company quickly evolved to be a leading developer and manufacturer of technology for commercial space, defense and wireless communications.

It was about this time last year, with the acquisition of EMS acquires Ottercom Ltd., a provider of Inmarsat communication terminals, which becomes EMS Satcom U.K., that the company started training its sites on the maritime business.

With the technology in hand, the only missing link was personnel with knowledge of the unique maritime environment, a bill that was quickly filled.

Nils Helle, Director of Programs, was tapped to head the Maritime business unit within EMS Satcom. Helle, former VP of Stratos, heads a teams that is well acquainted with the unique requirements of the maritime business, and includes: Ed Bender (former VP Comsat); Gregor Ross (former VP GN Comtext); Phil van Bergen (former VP GN Comtext and maritime marketing manager for Inmarsat), and Stewart Allington (formerly of Sperry).

The Technology

The company sees ample opportunity in the maritime realm for its product, and the push now is to find strong geographical distributors to spread the word (and the equipment) faster and further. The company currently has its equipment on trial on 15 vessels, ranging from luxurious yachts to offshore vessels to bulk carriers to the historic HM Bark Endeavour (see related story).

The Fleet 55 terminal provides global voice services, as well as 64kbits/s Mobile ISDN (including G-3 fax at 14.4kbps, or full-blown G-4 fax) and Mobile Packet Data Service (MPDS), Inmarsat's "always connected" service. It supports a comprehensive selection of interfaces, including ISDN, X.21, RS449, RS232, and two RJ11 ports, as well as optional STUIIB/III service for reliable secure communications.

The Fleet 55 is the flagship product for EMS SATCOM's newly formed Maritime Group.

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