ULTRA | Subsea Broadband for the Underwater IoT

ULTRA (Underwater Laser Telecommunications and Remote Access) is high-speed wireless for the subsea Internet of Underwater Things (IoUT)

In subsea environments high-speed data transmission, continuous monitoring abilities, and high-capacity communication systems are becoming critical for operations in deep-sea environments for communication and infrastructure, in both the private sector and defense sector.

Oceanit worked with support from the Shell GameChanger program, and with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), to develop a wireless system capable of high-speed, long-range, and high-bandwidth data transfer, called ‘ULTRA’: Underwater Laser Telecommunications and Remote Access.

Cables, umbilicals, and wired infrastructure connections have proven extremely costly to place and maintain in the subsea, even with the advancements in ROVs. Acoustic communication is the most readily available technology for subsea communications, but interferes with marine life and can only deliver data at rates around 10 kbit/sec. High-speed, long-range wireless communication has proven elusive underwater due to the broadband absorption of all standard communication wavelengths.

No single wireless technology is currently capable of serving as the backbone of a high-bandwidth subsea communications system without sacrificing range and data rates.

Oceanit has developed ULTRA using point-to-point, tight-beam lasers to enable high-bandwidth, wireless communications to create the crucial backbone for a subsea internet of things. The system offers gigabit bandwidth communications over distances of 100m+ and runs through low-power sensor nodes, enabling real-time monitoring of wide-band data and eliminating the need for umbilicals within the system.

ULTRA has a much longer range than current systems and is unaffected by acoustic noise environments. ULTRA takes advantage of a distributed network of low-power battery nodes which communicate to a submerged hub before relaying signals to the surface or an AUV. Built from the ground up as a directional system, ULTRA will have embedded targeting and tracking capabilities. The distributed nodes will not utilize lasers, but rather modulating reflectors that encode a signal on top of a beam sent from the hub.

The higher data rates made possible by the system will provide actionable information for multiple subsea use cases. ULTRA enables more efficient operations and situational awareness across a wide variety of subsea IoT devices.

To learn more, please visit the NETL’s website:


Key Features

  • Gigabit bandwidth communications
  • No umbilicals to distributed sensors
  • Maintains high bandwidth at long ranges
  • Unaffected by high acoustic noise environments
  • Operable with ROVs/AUVs
  • Low power-consumption sensor nodes
  • Real-time monitoring of wide-band data
ULTRA being tested in the field