Mobile Private Networks for Cruise Ships and the Merchant Navy
18 December 2020

Mobile Private Networks for Cruise Ships and the Merchant Navy

18 December 2020

Telecom26 has been providing maritime and IoT connectivity to the merchant navy for years including container ships, cruise liners, oil and gas tankers and general-purpose cargo ships.

As a result of our own experiences, and those of our customers, we firmly believe that vessels of all shapes and sizes should be able to have their own mobile private networks (MPN) on-board in the same way businesses on land have private terrestrial networks over fibre, wireless or satellite on their business premises.

MPNs would enable ships to have control over their own networks and billing - as well as providing cruise ships with another source of revenue from passengers who would be able to use their domestic SIMs on the ship’s MPN.

You can read Vodafone’s definition of MPNs here. Basically a dedicated business network that allows businesses to interconnect people and things using 4G or 5G technology” which “provides an ultra-secure network solution that can support businesses moving to Industry 4.0”.

MPNs differ from public mobile networks in that they provide “private reserved coverage that is subject to agreed performance and local, protected data flow”.

However, there are a couple of major blockages to the rollout of MPNs across the maritime sector for vessels that are 12 nautical miles offshore (2 nautical miles for the EU): the current international roaming costs, standards and regulations.

Naturally operators are reluctant to turn off what is still a cash cow. But really why should a domestic operator benefit in any way whatsoever when their customers are operating on an MPN in international waters?

Why shouldn’t a vessel be able to buy its own telco equipment, set up its own network and then utilise it how they want?

Telecom26 and our largest maritime connectivity customer

We have worked for many years with a huge global manufacturer of maritime and industrial electronic products. We provide the equipment, expertise and cellular connectivity for vessels of all sizes with pricing agreed up-front.

So, the main attraction for owners is that Telecom26 provides flat-based billing which means no more bill shock or contracts with multiple operators.

However, this model is not scalable for Telecom26 as we are absorbing the international roaming charges for our customers and need to authenticate each subscriber as they roam onto the MPN. We need to be smart about who our customers are - and which countries they are travelling to and through.

Telecom26 At Sea - helping the maritime industry by providing the most cost-effective means of maritime connectivity often using IoT connectivity

However, the major problem with the cellular at sea approach is that multiple SIMs have been required to ensure coverage throughout the cruise.  As the ship crosses borders, so the network operators will change.

With the specific goal of improving connectivity at sea, Telecom26 has a multi-pronged approach:

  1. Multi-IMSI global SIM cards which enable Global Roaming.

These enable one SIM to access multiple networks both in-country and across borders thus removing the need to worry about the coverage of a single MNO, or the existence of roaming alliances. Multiple-IMSI profiles are pre-loaded onto every SIM allowing for simple reconfiguration if the primary network has poor or no service.

Our Multi-IMSI global SIMs automatically select the best performing network in the area, cross-border, while providing users with the freedom to change SIM profiles and services with ease.

  1. A multi-SIM & multi-IMSI router which enables ship-wide Wi-Fi

This provides Wi-Fi to passengers and crew who would use their own devices and SIMs. When a vessel is travelling along the coast or anchored at port, the SIMs would use the best available cellular network and switch to satellite only when absolutely necessary.

  1. Telecom26 MPN while at sea

As the MPN is defined, Telecom26 can provide a dedicated mobile network for the ship owner to provide contiguous connectivity services while offshore.  The network would allow service for both Telecom26 SIMs as well as any operator SIM (under roaming agreement with Telecom26) entering the MPN coverage area, where the ship owner would manage the accessibility and service parameters of the MPN.  This service would be no different than what is offered by the terrestrial mobile operators but with higher levels of security and greater visibility and control of the subscribers.

To learn more about Telecom26’s suite of maritime connectivity services please click here.

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