Maritime Providers Relying on Wi-Fi Enhancements to Capture Vertical Markets

By | November 11, 2010 | OilComm

Satellite providers are investing in Wi-Fi network upgrades to stay competitive in the offshore energy marketplace while branching out into several niche maritime markets.
    MTN Satellite Communications (MTN) recently overhauled its Wi-Fi network to support upcoming deals in the cruise ship marketplace. MTN Senior Vice President Brent Horwitz said the deal would demonstrate the wide-range benefits of the upgraded network as it supports some of the most common applications.
    “MTN is taking the lead in bringing state-of-the-art broadband Wi-Fi connectivity to the cruise industry to meet the ever-increasing use of mobile devices and demand for always-on Internet access at sea. Today’s cruise passengers increasingly expect the same comforts and conveniences they get when staying in a luxury hotel or resort, and that includes ubiquitous high-speed Internet connections to send and receive emails, follow their favorite Web sites and update their social media pages,” Horwitz said.
The selling terms “always-on” and “ubiquitous” are becoming more popular for providers, and it has become a trend to list common uses in order to send a message to other maritime customers that satellite can provide a home away from home at sea.
    MTN’s Wi-Fi systems leverage worldwide broadband satellite networks for high-speed data links between ship and shore and incorporate Aruba Networks’ distributed-network technology. MTN network now provides Wi-Fi to more than 165 cruise ships worldwide, Horwitz said. These services serve both crew and passengers, as its Wi-Fi connectivity also provides operational communication and IT services alongside live television programming and entertainment.
    Stratos Global is taking a similar approaching from the opposite end, partnering with Alcatel-Lucent to target the oil and gas industry side by boosting IP connectivity between oil rigs, platforms and offshore vessels in the Gulf of Mexico. Stratos sought out Alcatel-Lucent’s IP/MPLS capability to create a network architecture for its recently launched StratosMax 2 service and signed a $5.2 million investment deal.
    “We are making a significant network investment — including upgrading the Stratos network from nested ATM rings to an IP/MPLS infrastructure using advanced packet microwave and IP-routing technology — so we can continue offering high-bandwidth, low-latency, high-value and extremely reliable services while minimizing communications costs for our customers,” said Stratos’ Senior Vice President of Broadband Services George Head.
    Alcatel-Lucent’s WiMax gear, packet microwave technology and IP/MPLS aim to allow Stratos to offer the essential offshore enterprise features:  high-bandwidth, low-latency, reliable voice service and corporate virtual private networks, but the service also supports high-speed Internet connectivity applications with high commercial and consumer demand, such as hot spot Wi-Fi service and mobile support. 
    “Enabling people working on the rigs and vessels to communicate with each other and back to shore has been as challenging as the environment itself,” said Walt Paskowski, vice president of North America sales for Alcatel-Lucent. “The solution we are deploying for Stratos will enable them to offer new services for this special group of customers.”

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