Growing demand for
Established in 1969 NSSL Ltd is a leading
independent service provider for satellite
communications solutions on land and at sea.
Richard Hooper talks to Danielle Edwards,
Product Marketing Manager, about the
company’s activities in the maritime broadband
sector, and in particular the Cruise-IP service.
NSSL, an international satellite greater independent coverage, better
communications provider, is enhancing a services, and all under their own control.
popular service for yachts that enables high NSSL has partnered with STM Norway,
speed Internet access from some of the a subsidiar y of STM Group, which
busiest maritime areas. The service, known specialises in designing, manufacturing, and
as Cruise-IP, allows yacht owners to installing DVB-RCS VSAT Gateways. Under
duplicate land-based communications at sea. the terms of the agreement, STM has
This means yacht owners can make delivered, installed and will support the DVB-
international telephone calls, surf the web, RCS hubs on the east and west coasts of
trade in stocks and shares, access corporate the US, providing coverage of the marine
networks and even download newspapers routes frequented by ships in the
from the comfort of their yacht “as if they were Mediterranean, Caribbean, US and Pacific
at home”. Cruise-IP has become increasingly waters.
popular because running costs are typically With two extra ‘gateways’ NSSL is able
fifteen times lower than Inmarsat Fleet, the to offer Cruise-IP yacht owners greater
current market leader for maritime functionality. First, the gateways will extend
broadband. Cruise-IP users also benefit from the range of Cruise-IP to include popular
global 24 hour support, meaning that any yachting routes frequented by business and
technical problems or lost connections can leisure users in the Pacific, Caribbean and
be very quickly dealt with. Mediterranean. Second, the gateways will
According to Bob Chewter, Managing also enable NSSL to offer guaranteed
Director of NSSL: “Increasingly yacht owners network reliability under one ser vice
need to be in touch with land whilst at sea. provider’s control – something no other
With Cruise-IP the communication supplier is currently doing. Other
possibilities for yacht owners are limitless. supplementary benefits include a dedicated
Yacht owners using Cruise-IP can listen to voice service, ability to prioritise video
the radio; take part in video-conferencing; conferencing traffic and capability for
download TV shows like ‘Lost’; trade in stocks customers to customise packages based on
and shares; download music and access files either bandwidth and/or contention ratio.
from the office.”
ABOUT NSSL Cruise-IP works by connecting the Question: Please can you explain exactly
NSSL Ltd is an independent service onboard computer to a satellite what NSSL does?
provider for satellite communications communication modem and antenna which Danielle Edwards: NSSL is a satellite
solutions, and one of the top Inmarsat is also located on the yacht. A constant service provider. There are two halves to
service providers worldwide. communication link is established between our business, the first is land based and the
With a wide range of services and the vessel and the internet via a satellite second is marine. We don’t just sell kit, as
extensive experience of systems inte- ground earth station based in North America. anybody can do that. We specialise in
gration and application development, All communications, both data and voice, are integration. We talk to customers about what
the company is strong in the maritime, routed via the internet. they require and then integrate the best
government, energy, media, finance and solution for them. On the maritime side, the
corporate sectors. NSSL provides voice, Installation of new gateways data rates are always going to be slightly
data and broadband solutions anywhere To enhance the service even further the slower than terrestrial, but we try to make it
in the world. company launched its own DVB-RCS as seamless as possible.
Gateways in Florida and California in April We are a preferred supplier for the UK
2007. This has enabled NSSL to provide Ministry of Defence, and a number of major
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players in the media sector including actually you don’t have that bandwidth at all Question: What makes Cruise-IP a popular
Reuters. most of the time. Because of the number of installation on cruise ships and yachts?
At the moment we are not all things to users and where you are that figure will DE: Why is it so popular. Simple, users can
all people, but we do cover most of the big fluctuate. So by sharing the channel, we can replicate their onland experience and that is
vertical sectors. Where we fit in is that we drop airtime costs right down. huge plus for businessmen on their luxury
are a hardware manufacturer and airtime NSSL can now provide a low-cost yachts. If you polled the users, they would
supplier agnostic – so we are not specifically alternative to VSAT offering high-quality tell you they don’t really care how many
tied to any particular airtime supplier. broadband IP at a fraction of the running megabytes they have at sea or on land. They
costs; and in the locations where you need just want to know that when they click
Question: What is Cruise-IP? service most. We offer a number of different something happens, and they are not waiting
DE: Cruise-IP is what we call a VSAT monthly package plans. A bit like BT at home, for it to respond. The second thing is cost, it
alter native, duplicating land-based you decide how much bandwidth you require is a cheaper solution.
communications at sea. Up to the middle of and then pay a fixed sum of money. You can
March it used the DVB-RCS technology, but then use the system as much as you want Question: Why do people use NSSL?
we now have the two new hubs and upgraded without any worries as to a shock invoice DE: Why do people deal with us. Well, we do
that technology to DVB-S2. It is the latest suddenly arriving through the post. our job really well, and our 24/7 backup and
generation and at the moment we are the For example, we have had cases in the support is excellent. Our customers know our
only hub running that particular technology. past with customers using the Inmarsat Fleet engineers by name, and are often
It gives us a lot more flexibility in terms of Service which is a pay as you use, where programmed into the speed-dial on their
managing end-to-end, and being able to customers have gone from zero to 10,000 mobile phones. For businessmen time is
keep our destiny in our own hands rather on their invoice in a matter of days. It can be money and therefore immediate support
than handing it over to one of the big a scary proposition awaiting the invoice at response times are essential.
providers like Telenor. the end of the month.
We now control the end-to-end solution Question: How important is cost when
and that has positive implications for Question: Does Cruise-IP work with both installing a system like Cruise IP?
customer suppor t. If somebody needs voice and data? DE: Cost is not massively important in the
additional bandwidth we can supply it on DE: Yes, the system gives you both voice and type of vessels that Cruise-IP is installed. It
demand to his vessel. The investment in the data at the same time. If a customer does is all about value and whether the system
hubs and the technology has been very not have a voice solution we can integrate delivers what it says it does.
important to us because it gives us a greater one into the system for them.
degree of flexibility from the support to the In addition, because customers Question: What is the main consideration
service itself. Customers are now getting requirements can often change, if somebody on such a system – speed or reliability?
what they need, ideally replicating their land suddenly requires extra bandwidth for a DE: It is always such a difficult question –
based communications. specific task, we can allocate that. but I would say reliability. It is similar to being
People are now asking for broadband at home or in the office - you want access
where ever they are, and that is what we are Question: Cruise-IP was introduced in when you want it, without any reliability
delivering. It looks like any other 2005. How many have been installed? issues. Speed is a secondary consideration
communications system while onboard the DE: We have over 90 vessels with Cruise-IP that you balance against reliability.
vessel, there is an antenna inside a radome installed. Growth is encouraging, and now
and depending on where you are in the world we have the trust in the market with Cruise- Question: What is the reliability of the
we use either Ku-Band or C-Band, but IP, we have people ringing us for the solution. system like?
generally Ku. In the Gulf of Mexico for Most of the installs are on super yachts. DE: Any downtime we have had has been
example you cannot legally use C-Band. C- I don’t know whether you know but in this planned. We contact our customers to
Band is traditionally for the land based business we don’t advertise the system, the schedule downtime for upgrades and
version of Cruise-IP over Africa. The systems sales come from one owner seeing another development work. If there have been failures
are engineer installed on the vessels and this use the system while moored in Monaco or it is not in the service but normally a hardware
takes between four and five days. We don’t one of the other luxury spots around the component. In which case an engineer is
let the customers do it on their own. We won’t world. normally dispatched within hours.
release the hardware without our engineers
Question: How big is the onboard Lady Marina. Photo courtesy of NSSL.
DE: As I mentioned, the product looks like
any other communications system while
onboard. The onboard antenna is relatively
small at just 1.2 metres.
Question: What is the advantage over a
traditional VSAT system?
DE: On traditional VSAT services it is a
dedicated channel which is all yours. But for
that you pay a hefty price. VSAT solutions
are not always the cheapest. With Cruise-IP,
once the system is onboard it is a shared
channel, so like a DSL line at home your
provider will tell you have 8Mbytes, when
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