Maritime Hybrid Connectivity

“smart hybrid connectivity” “hybrid connectivity for digital transformation at sea”, “hybrid networks enhance maritime connectivity”, “Hybrid networks and SDWAN features: the new Maritime Connectivity standard”, … all of them bespoke and from global leaders in the field.

2021 has been resonating with “Hybrid Everywhere” as being the new solution for all your digital transformation troubles. But hold on, isn’t that what we’ve been doing for over a decade with our routers (maybe not possible on your Home-Fi device but definitely available on multi-port devices).

To quote one of our industry experts in 2013 “Hybrid maritime VSAT networks are coming” (The Complete Guide to VSAT) and they were already there way back then.

Why did it take so long to become ‘mainstream’ with the global leaders … or is the new buzz worth $$$

This may seem new to some, but network engineers have been routing and chopping up your traffic for a very long time over all kinds of media. From 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, C-Band, L-Band, Ku-Band, Ka-Band, X-Band (if you are very important), WiFi, WiMax, LEO, MEO, GEO but not to forget the simple network cable and fiber connection … basically anything they could use to move data from one location to the next to satisfy your data hunger.

What do you need to be Hybrid

To be Hybrid – we know you want to – you need several (possibly different) ways to connect to the internet. This can pretty much be anything, any of the listed media above will do. Plug all these into your multi-WAN router in a predefined order of importance (usually based on speed and cost) and what comes out, if your router was properly configured, is an internet connection that switches automatically to the best available network.

Should it be expensive? Not really. Keep in mind that the speeds that you will achieve on board (even with 5G and StarWeb becoming available) aren’t actually that high compared to terrestrial links (Gigabit ethernet to the home) Unless there are a large amount of very complicated traffic rules that the router needs to check for every packet that it processes, a good mid level device will handle the link management easily.

On top of that you can set up VPNs, Firewall rules, Anti-Virus, anti-Phishing, Endpoint-Security, Monitoring, …. You will probably need a more powerful (read expensive) but that is already beyond hybrid connectivity and ask yourself whether you really need al the bells and whistles.

Building Blocks

The most common building blocks for maritime data connections are VSAT, L-Band (Iridium, Fleetbroadband) and 3G/4G/5G. Those adventurous enough could add some more exotic Point-to-Point radio links and whatnots but the first three are basically it.

For Coastal mostly within national cellular range: VSAT + 4G and local SIM

For International Coastal and often within cellular reach: VSAT + Roaming SIM

For Global Sommercial Shipping: VSAT + Roaming SIMs and add an L-Band Iridium Certus, it even does GMDSS

For Technical Vessels requiring high throughput: The biggest VSAT you can install and a few good 4G routers with non-steered

For Inland Cruise: Powerful multiple 4G/5G and high volume SIMs with optional VSAT Backup.

For Larger Cruise Lines: Extra large C-Band and Ku-Band VSAT combinations with redundant teleports and high throughput (upload and download) 4G/5G.

and for all the above + a (redundant-High Availability) Multi WAN router selected based on your requirements above.

But there’s more – The ‘New’ Bond, Link Bond

While also not really new link bonding has become more mainstream over the last few years. It allows to combine all the links above to a single connection, achieving aggregated bandwidth of all your links together (some exceptions based on same latency) and much more stable connectivity.

Data generated on board will steadily increase in the coming years. Cautious figures indicate a annual growth of 30%. At the end of the day you will need to know what your data requirements are and which devices to combine to get he best result. VSAT Terminal should last almost a decade, so choose wisely. Nothing worse than losing a client because the internet wasn’t meeting up with the requiremets.

The Ultimate Hybrid – Hyper:-P

If latency is less important Hyper-P can achieve throughputs of any traditional communication medium can only dream of. Transferring 1TB of data over a NLOS (Near-Line-Of-Sight) of e.g. 50 Miles can be achieved in about 1 hour. That is nearly 2.3 Gbps throughput.

Unfortunately Hyper-P does not have a return rate guarantee, doesn’t really like water and tends to make your antennas dirty. But it’s an option.

Happy Hybrid Bonding !

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