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High-Speed Internet Rides in RVs

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Rhode Island-based KVH Industries claims it is shipping the first high-speed satellite
Internet-access service for moving vehicles. The company first unveiled its TracNet mobile
technology in late 2001. The system, which can be installed in recreational vehicles,
enables users to surf the Web and send e-mail while under way. Existing systems require
users to be stationary in order to lock on to the correct satellite signal. KVH officials
claim the company’s TracNet mobile Internet antenna registers the movements of the vehicle
and pinpoints the correct satellite automatically. The system receives Internet downloads
at speeds of up to 400 kilobits per second (kbps), which is roughly seven times faster than
dial-up access and roughly equivalent to a high-speed cable connection. Uploads, however,
are slow. Handled by either a cellular modem at 14.4 kbps or satellite modem at 9,600 bits
per second, transmission of longer files is a more sluggish process. “It’s not a two-way
high-speed system at this point,” said KVH Communications Coordinator Chris Watson. “For
the applications we are expecting people to be using this for — e-mail, surfing the Web,
basically, bringing information into the vehicle — the two-way high-speed connection is
not as critical.” Two-way high-speed mobile Internet satellite systems require extremely
accurate aiming technology, and the FCC, thus far, has not approved any such device. The
pricey system costs $5,995, not including the 14-inch antenna, which adds another $2,999,
according to the company. Once installed, users must pay a monthly fee of $79, plus 99
cents a minute when in use. The per-minute price drops to 79 cents a minute after 900
minutes. TracNet works throughout the continental United States. Users must install a
server inside the RV, which connects to a PC, laptop or Mac. There is also a 56K landline
connection for when the RV is parked.

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