Superyacht owners expect the same levels of service at sea that they are accustomed to on land. And as such, the battle for high-quality, cost-effective connectivity at sea is ongoing.
Beyond the technical limitations that exist, that is, the range of land-based cellular networks, there is also international telecoms agreements to contend with and the rights to mobile provision in international waters.
Despite these restrictions, Cobham Wireless, in conjunction with its marine communications specialist partner, who wishes to remain anonymous at this juncture, has sought to overcome these issues by extending the range of selected land-based cellular networks, thereby enhancing long-range connection and reducing final costs.
SuperyachtNews.com speaks with Hebert I. Sedas, director of sales at Cobham Wireless, about the technology employed and its potential benefits.
“The technology has been on the market for several years now. It is a proven, mature product, but its application in the marine industry is new,” starts Sedas. “Previously such technology has been applied widely in commercial building applications.”
To achieve the desired results, Cobham wireless has utilised its extensive knowledge of distributed antenna systems (DAS) in conjunction with its partner’s knowledge of marine communications to create a bespoke solution.
The system comprises an external multiband donor antenna positioned outside of the yacht, linked to a Cobham DIGImini booster (which amplifies a select number of terrestrial signals) connected to an internal antenna. This captures the signal of a multi-channel aggregation device, using 3G SIM cards from 3 separate networks – enabling three simultaneous network connections with a single IP connection. The end result is a superyacht being able to receive cellular coverage up to 50km from land.
Increased cellular range equates to several hours more high-quality connectivity at sea before switching to the standard satellite systems. “The network providers allow us to deliver this service because it is better for their end user, the customer remains happy, they don’t pay out of their pocket, and it’s a system that works,” continues Sedas. Cobham has correctly identified, and capitalised upon, the maritime apathy endemic in cellular data provision.
Specific protocols can be established in line with the user’s budget to define which traffic is allowed through the satellite services and which can be accessed only when in range of the amplified cellular land signal. Outside of the extended cellular range the vessel will automatically switch to the less cost-effective satellite provision. This technology is applicable worldwide.