Cellular at Sea – How can you capitalise on land-based networks for more efficient data transfer from ships?
16 June 2020

Cellular at Sea – How can you capitalise on land-based networks for more efficient data transfer from ships?

16 June 2020

Vessels of all sizes generate increasing data volumes, from IoT devices, on-board processes and applications, as well as personal communications devices. Managing this flow is increasingly complex – and can be costly if satellite is the only option. But not all data is time-critical. Telecom26 provides an advanced router that enables data transfer to be optimised, enabling access to terrestrial networks when in range and satellite while at sea. It controls data transmission and chooses the optimum path, based on application.

Not all data is the same

Communications is essential on-board, not just for people, such as passengers and crew, but also increasingly for devices. Not only does cargo often contain devices that transmit essential data for remote monitoring, but ships are rapidly adopting new operational solutions to optimise performance. These need to transfer data to remote servers and applications, for monitoring and review, so that processes can be managed and tuned effectively.

So, this adds up to a growing volume of data. Some of which is real-time or time-sensitive, some needs to be regularly transmitted for operational purposes, while other data can be stored for processing at periodic intervals. Managing this data flow is important, because the needs of data processing systems must be balanced against the backhaul options available – and their cost.

Satellite transmission is an option for the most important data, but it comes at a price. It has the advantage of ubiquitous coverage, but is expensive and there may be bandwidth restrictions, which means it’s not suitable for continuous transmission of all relevant data. What’s needed is a more efficient way of handling data flows, that can handle prioritisation of transmission and reception – and make better use of the available backhaul and connectivity options.

Cellular at sea – handover to terrestrial networks when in range

That’s because the choice is not limited to satellite. If a vessel is within 12 nautical miles of the shore, there is the possibility to access terrestrial cellular networks, using 2G, 3G or 4G radio. In other words, classical mobile networks offer an option for data transfer. You just need the ability to detect and automatically roam onto an available network.

Capitalising on cellular radio at sea provides the perfect solution for ensuring efficient data transfer – but you need a solution that can automatically manage connectivity, switching to cellular at sea networks when they are available.

That’s what Telecom26 offers. Our advanced maritime router solution provides effective service monitoring so that offshore to nearshore handover to cellular networks can be enabled, while at sea. Backed by Telecom26’s extensive range of network partners, it ensures effective cellular at sea coverage, along any coastal region. When in range, it connects and continually scans coverage to ensure consistent performance. If a better option is available, it will select this and transfer automatically, providing an optimised solution that keeps you connected. Since the greater part of most sea voyages is within sight of land, it provides a more efficient option than relying on expensive satellite coverage.

Captive cellular at sea networks

Captive cellular networks can also be enabled onboard vessels of all sizes. By using radios from our partner ecosystem, we can build a complete cellular network at sea, which provides local connectivity via 3GPP wireless interfaces, with breakout via satellite or, when in range of PLMNs, classical cellular coverage from shore-based networks. Because we support inbound roaming, any cellular device can be supported. The solution provides the benefits of a private network with the additional advantage of roaming, so permitted users can be admitted.

As a result, Telecom26 can deliver a complete connected solution, based on standard interfaces for cellular at sea. With Telecom26, vessels can manage data flows, sending only the most critical or time-sensitive data via satellite while at sea, and blocking non-essential data transfer until in range of terrestrial mobile networks. At the same time, crew and passengers can use standard mobile devices while on board with breakout to macro networks via both satellite and roaming to external networks. Secure and protected, this helps ship owners obtain global, flexible coverage and control costs.

It’s a better, more cost-effective solution that provides optimised data transfer to cope with growing demands. And, it can scale to provide full coverage while on board, with local network options – equipping even the largest vessels with everything they need to cope with surging data.

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