Growing demand for communications by wulinqing


									                                                                                             Q&A NSSL

     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

46                                    w w |July/August 2007
                                       w w | July/August 2006
                            Q&A NSSL

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
being there.

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

                                      w w | July/August 2007                                                                   47

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