Next Generation Wideband & what it means for our CIVMARs

The following blog was written by Rear Adm. T.K. Shannon, Commander, Military Sealift Command. The Bandwidth-Efficient Satellite Transport system, commonly known as BEST, aboard our government-owned/government-operated ships was retired March 31. Shannon talks about the replacement, Next Generation Wideband, and what it means to our mariners.

It may have slipped by so quietly that you didn’t notice, but on March 31, 2014, the BEST system faded into MSC history.

For more than a decade, the BEST system was the mainstay of our CIVMARs afloat, providing connectivity to the worldwide Web through bandwidth-limited satellite channels. Now, a newer, better solution to the challenge of afloat connectivity has been deployed to our fleet:  Next Generation Wideband.

USNS Supply (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Timothy Walter)

USNS Supply (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Timothy Walter)

We’ve been working since 2008 to replace BEST, which only provided an average of 48 Kbps upload and 128 Kbps shared download for each of our ships. Additionally, under the BEST system architecture, one ship in a region could have an adverse effect on the download capabilities of our other ships in the region. It just wasn’t working with our increased operations tempo and our need for additional mission communications flexibility.

We began deploying our new system, Next Generation Wideband, in August 2012. By February 2014 our last ship to receive our new system, fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE 6), was up and running. We even retired the old system six months ahead of schedule.

Now, all of our CIVMAR-crewed ships can have dedicated 256 Kbps upload and download at the same budget level as the old system. And, NGW eliminates the risk of one ship affecting the communications of our other ships in the region. It even opens the door for future plans relating to distance support of our shipboard networks.

The dual-antenna solution from NGW provides both L band and Ku band connectivity, with automatic transfer between satellites. That lowers our costs of satellite shifts. And, because the satellite coverage overlaps, NGW is an inherently redundant system.

NGW provides greater flexibility to support our ever-changing missions, not to mention the new missions we seem to constantly receive. We can purchase bandwidth in increments of 64 Kbps, which allows our ship program managers flexibility to match satellite communications capability to individual ships and their individual missions. Our NGW contract even has provisions for short-term purchases of bandwidth to support our surge missions.

This is a giant leap for MSC, one that serves our mission reliability and flexibility, and provides a better life afloat for our CIVMARS. It’s been a long time coming, but, “Happy birthday, NGW!  We’re glad you’re finally here!”

 Thanks for your service,

T.K. Shannon
Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy
Commander, Military Sealift Command




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