Technology Update December 2023

Written by Roger Horner

Written by Roger Horner

Roger Horner is the founder and CEO of e3Systems since 1996. He has been a contributor for The Islander Magazine since 1997.

A year in review…

This year has flown past! Suddenly we’ve reached 2024, and I believe I am correct in saying that this is the 28th year that I have been writing for The Islander! I started in March or April 1996 with the original founder, John Rule. It started as a 12 page, black and white mag. John developed his readership by notoriety, as every month he ruthlessly laid into local politicians, and people flocked to read it to find out who or what his next target was going to be. I suggested at one point he should rename it ‘The I Slander’!   

I have subsequently worked with Peter Franklin, Simon Relph and now Jens Oomes, and each has brought the publication on in leaps and bounds, adding their own flavour to it in the process.

A quick review of 2023. What were the best and worst bits of technology?

In January, I suggested we would see great advances in Starlink, which indeed we have seen continuously over the year. The first thing we saw was the introduction of data caps, then we were appointed an Authorised Starlink Reseller in May at which point Starlink started charging for overage, for which we were the first to create automated warnings for our Starlink clients. By the end of October, we had supplied exactly 100 Starlink antennas and the huge SpaceX Starship rocket still hadn’t launched successfully.

At the start of the year, we were told that Kymeta with OneWeb would launch in the second quarter of 2023. It didn’t! OneWeb has now been taken over by Eutelsat to become Eutelsat OneWeb and it’s still not available globally. They are now saying by end March 2024.  

Intellian launched two flat panels for Eutelsat OneWeb in October, but they will not be commercially available until early 2024.  We have an indication of prices only.

I also predicted we would see the huge new Viasat VS3 satellite launch. It was delayed and when it launched it didn’t deploy correctly so it is only able to provide about 5% of its designed capability. During the year, Viasat acquired Inmarsat and then Inmarsat lost their satellite Inmarsat-6 F2, too! It wasn’t a good year for Viasat, and at the start of November they announced 800 staff are being cut due to the merger.

I suggested the one to watch would be the AST Spacemobile project that intends to provide direct to device calls to a standard cellular phone via satellite. They completed what is said to be the first-ever 5G voice and data connection from a standard unmodified smartphone directly to a satellite in low earth orbit. The 5G call took place in September from Hana in Hawaii to Madrid, Spain via the company’s BlueWalker 3 test satellite, using a stock Samsung S22 smartphone. A separate test achieved a download speed of 14 megabits/second.

As with everything else, SpaceX is also targeting a direct-to-device service that enables text messaging with the Starlink constellation in 2024, and voice, data, and IoT service by 2025.

In February I pre-warned about the change in GMDSS rules affecting the Sea Area 3 and 4, that Navtex is out, MSI receiving is in, and that HF and MF radios becomes HF or MF radios, which is due to come into force on 1st January 2024. 

In April, Amazon announced their new flat antennas for their LEO constellation project Kuiper at the Satellite Show in Washington DC. In October they launched their first two test satellites, which were up and running very quickly.  

In July I started discussing ChatGPT and AI in general which is in continuous development and now with regular meetings of governments and tech leaders.  Everyone agrees unless it’s regulated it could be a threat. In November Elon Musk suggested AI would take over everyone’s jobs in the future! I tried to get ChatGPT to write my Islander column but, unfortunately, it’s not quite ready to do that yet!

During august one of our clients transited the Northwest Passage, which gave us a unique opportunity to witness the performance of Starlink, VSAT and L Band satellite services up to 74°N. The Starlink service performed faultlessly to the extent that I had a WhatsApp video call with the captain when the yacht was at 71°N.  

At METS in November, we launched our Connectivity Management solution eHUB, which provides comprehensive Connectivity Control for any connection from any supplier, together with 24/7 Connectivity Support for all equipment on-board, 24/7 Cyber Security Incident Response and Native HD IPTV and streaming.  We designed this system to manage any combination of connection whether LEO, GEO or mobile and to be able to use all the features now available in a simple and safe way with total support. 

My stocking filler suggestion!

It’s that time of year and as with most years I am delighted to present my hi-tech stocking filler suggestion to give to your loved ones.

It was twenty plus years ago that I recommended slippers with headlights that switched on when you stepped into them. I was delighted when someone called me and asked where he could buy them!

Twenty years later, we have a tech update to these slippers – it’s headlights for Crocs!  

Light up the night with your feet, and the path ahead. Super bright and long-lasting, easy to use and brighter than your phone’s flash. These Croc headlights ensure you don’t trip in the dark and illuminate a distance of 20 metres!

Just in case anyone is seriously interested, there are available on Amazon…

Very best wishes to you all for the Christmas and New Year break.  

A big thank you to all our clients, business colleagues and friends for all we have done together over the year, and we look forward to working with you in 2024.


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