On-board communications are becoming increasingly complex, and with so many crew and guests getting used to ultra-fast bandwidth on land, the on-board communications industry is having to offer alternative and suitable solutions. The result: more on-board communication options are available, but questions still remain as to how crew and owners can get the most out of these options. The SuperyachtOwner.com speaks to Derik Wagner, managing director of MTN Communications’ yacht business unit, about some issues that might be affecting today’s owners, and possible solutions.


Credit: Alessandro Braida

“Crew are starting to understand that they need more control of their bandwidth. Where in the past we just needed to guarantee a good, reliable link to the boat, crew now expect to have access to that link and are instead looking more at its functionality and how they can best use it. It all comes down to the different applications they benefit from given their level of bandwidth,” explains Wagner. The increasing use of internet-based applications raises two primary concerns for owners, however: prioritisation of bandwidth and privacy.

The number of applications requiring connectivity that can be used on board varies drastically, but the pool remains large. From voice calls to PBX and wirless use of smartphones to high-definition video streaming and conference calling, this increasing range of applications add much complexity to how a yacht’s bandwidth is used. “The biggest question is: how are you going to do all of these things simultaneously? How are you going to have crew using the internet for their emails and social media, the owner having their high-definition video conference call and a guest streaming a video all at the same time? It’s about trying to enable the level of priority through profiling, bandwidth shaping and local area network (LAN) management,” Wagner explains. “The first wrays of prioritising bandwidth meant the owners and guests got all of it and the crew got none of it, but now there are tools to allow all parties to get it all the time. It’s possible to define bandwidth priorities and limits so you can actually section out how much goes where. For example, if you are receiving 10 megabits per second (Mbps) of capacity, you could say the crew is going to get two Mbps and the owner will get eight – that’s one way to control it.”

Once this has been achieved, however, concerns may still arise as to crewmembers’ use of social media – something many owners dislike due to its lack of privacy. For Wagner, however, the answer is ethical, not technological. “My initial feeling is that you can’t really control that. You can shut down those services and prevent crew from using them – it absolutely can be done – however I don’t know if that’s the best way forward. I’m a firm believer of teaching ethics and making your crew abide by these things, and penalties for not doing so. Those are the best ways to do it because I think social media is a necessity for people these days – it’s not just a luxury. It’s a good way to communicate with family and friends; you just have to respect privacy and I think it’s just a matter of teaching.”

A full interview with Derik Wagner about crewmembers’ use of bandwidth and their options for the future will appear in issue 67 of The Crew Report.