As the Internet plays a bigger and bigger part of our daily lives, the expectation to be able to take it with us wherever we go is increasing.
Inevitably having the use of this facility whilst on holiday on a cruise ship, or working on an oil tanker is just a natural progression of this. Many commercial vessels are now offering Wi-Fi onboard as a way of increasing revenue from their captive audiences or to increase staff retention in the case of some cargo carrying ships.
Installing Wi-Fi coverage onboard a marine vessel is comparatively simple compared to an aircraft. Unlike aircraft the equipment that can be used doesn’t have to be specifically certified for marine use, although there are still a number of legal and regulatory issues that do need to be addressed.
Most modern ships already have some type of structured data cabling and it may be possible to piggy back onto these systems to reduce the overall installation time and cost. Coverage and capacity also needs to be carefully planned. If the system isn’t correctly designed and properly dimensioned, potential revenue could be lost. Finally the new data traffic will need to be transmitted back to a secure connection point on land, either via satellite or other means. Generally it is this ship to shore data link, that becomes the bottleneck of marine networks.
Signal coverage Mapping
Get the best from your investment
When system use is expected to be low, it can sometimes be beneficial to look at installing one or two centrally located base stations and to then distribute the RF signals via a network of low loss coaxial cables, splitters, couplers and carefully positioned antennas.
The benefit of this approach is that it is easy to upgrade the centralised equipment at a later date or increase capacity if required. The cheaper cabling infrastructure can also lead to overall cost savings. This approach generally involves more work, as cabling may need to be run between decks and through watertight bulkheads.
This approach is really only suitable for cellular network systems with low user density and where the cost of installing multiple base stations just isn’t cost effective.
Leaky-line type antenna systems are generally not used in marine environments due to their cost and fragile nature, although there may be some benefit considering these for special applications.
OnBoardComs has extensive knowledge and hands on practical experience designing, installing and measuring the electrical and RF performance of distributed RF coaxial cabling systems.
Making the most of your existing communications systems
Most modern maritime vessels will already have a cabled data network of some type.This can sometimes be used to reduce the amount of time and work required to install new Wi-Fi and mobile telephony systems on-board.
Due to the popularity and the wide range of devices available, GSM is still the preferred system for the majority of marine clients outside of America and Japan.
The later mobile phone standards such as 3G or even 4G/LTE offer no real advantages when you consider that a Wi-Fi data network is normally also available onboard and that the final bottleneck for all onboard traffic is the ship to shore data links.
Cellular systems onboard ships can only normally be used whilst in international waters. However, operation closer to land is possible in certain geographic areas, if strict regulatory requirements are fully met.
OnBoardComs are able to map the real coverage of your planned or existing onboard radio network, showing you the received signal levels for each individual base station or access point at deck level, or down to individual cabin level if required.
This information can then be used to identify areas where coverage is poor or to determine overlapping coverage areas for capacity and system resilience planning.
Real Coverage Information
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