Close up image of the ocean with the sun reflecting off the waves to highlight the isolation for seafarers and the importance of being able to remain reliably connected.

What Wireless Maritime Services are Available for Seafarers?

20/6/23 | 4 minute read

In the expanse of the world’s oceans, reliable communication and remote connectivity is crucial for the safety and efficiency of maritime operations. Seafarers, whether on cargo ships, cruise liners, or fishing vessels, rely on maritime wireless network services to stay connected, navigate safely, and ensure smooth operations whilst at sea. Here at AST Networks, we understand the unique challenges faced by those at sea and are dedicated to providing innovative solutions. In this blog, we take a deep dive into the various wireless maritime services available.

Satellite Communications

 Image of satellite orbiting in space to demonstrate how satellites can enhance communication capabilities even whilst in remote locations out at sea.

One of the most critical components of maritime communications is satellite connectivity. Unlike traditional terrestrial networks, satellite communication provides coverage across the entire globe, including remote oceanic regions. Key services include:

VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal)

VSAT systems use small satellite antennas to provide high-speed internet, offering reliable broadband connectivity essential for business-critical communications and crew or passenger entertainment. VSATs are commonly used on larger vessels, such as container ships or cruise liners.


A leading provider of global mobile satellite communication, Inmarsat offers a range of services like FleetBroadband, delivering high-quality voice and data services, global coverage, and enhanced safety features, and is widely used across various maritime sectors for communication and safety services.


Iridium provides satellite communication through a constellation off LEOS (Low Earth Orbit Satellites), offering global coverage, including polar regions, as well as reliable voice and data services. This makes it ideal for smaller vessels, fishing boats, and yachts.

VHF Radio (Very High Frequency)

VHF Radio.jpg

VHF radio is a staple of maritime communication, especially for short-range communication, it is essential for facilitating coordination and collision avoidance between vessels (ship-to-ship communication), allowing connectivity with port authorities and coastal services (ship-to-shore communication), and ensuring immediate assistance in emergencies.

GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System)

Image of a helicopter flying low over a body of water to show the importance of making sure the maritime sector is always connected in case of an emergency.

GMDSS is an internationally recognised safety system that uses terrestrial and satellite technology to ensure rapid and efficient distress response. Key components include EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacons), which are automatically activated in distress situations, sending location data to rescue authorities; SARTs (Search and Rescue Transponders), used to locate lifeboats or survival craft during rescue operations; and NAVTEX (Navigational Telex), which provides navigational and meteorological warnings and forecasts, ensuring seafarers are informed of critical information.

Cellular Networks

Image of cellular towers to portray how cellular networks send and receive data

While satellite communication is essential for open ocean coverage, cellular networks provide valuable connectivity near coastlines and ports. Advances in maritime cellular networks include 4G LTE Maritime Solutions, which offer enhanced cellular coverage with extended range, providing high-speed internet and voice connectivity within coastal regions. Emerging 5G technology promises even faster speeds and more reliable connectivity, improving the digital experience for those at sea.

Wi-Fi Hotspots

Photo of person holding a mobile phone representing how using Wi-Fi hotspots can increase crew welfare as they have entertainment at the tips of their fingers.

Many modern vessels are equipped with onboard Wi-Fi systems, enabling crew to stay connected via personal devices. These systems typically leverage satellite or cellular backhaul to provide internet access throughout the ship. The benefits include improved crew welfare as crews can keep in touch with friends and family, access social media and entertainment sites, as well as enhancing operational efficiency by enabling seamless communication between crew and shore-based personnel.

AIS (Automatic Identification System)

Image of a ship, lighthouse, and rough waters to display the importance of being able to track vessels and avoid collisions, improving safety at sea.

AIS is a vital tool for vessel tracking and collision avoidance, it uses VHF radio channels to send and receive vessel information such as position, speed, and course. The benefits include enhanced safety through real-time tracking and identification of nearby vessels, reducing the risk of collisions, and conforming to regulatory compliance – a requirement set out by the International Marine Organisation (IMO) for ships over a certain size.


The maritime industry has come a long way in terms of wireless communication, ensuring that seafarers are always connected, no matter their location or environmental conditions. From satellite networks to VHF radios, GMDSS, cellular infrastructure, Wi-Fi hotspots, and AIS, a variety of wireless services work together to improve safety, operational efficiency, and crew welfare.

AST Networks provide the most robust, reliable, and innovative wireless maritime connectivity solutions. Whether you are navigating the high seas or anchoring at port, our services ensure you stay connected and secure. Explore our range of maritime communication solutions and discover how we can support your voyage at sea.

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