Global businesses are usually associated with high-rise buildings, modern office space, and tailor-made suits. Likewise, enterprise connectivity is linked to software-defined networks and high-speed fiber access. But what if the business is not only operating in your typical city. Or in a nearby town. What if the business is in the middle of nowhere, sailing overseas?
The maritime industry is one of the largest industries globally and essential for the global economy. According to maritime publications, around 80% of the global trade by volume and over 70% of the global trade by value are carried out by sea and are controlled by ports worldwide. And like with any other global enterprise, maritime's digital transformation is at full steam ahead, driven by emerging technologies and their promise to increase productivity, operational efficiencies, crew satisfaction, and wellbeing – the latter becoming especially important in the last 20 months since the Covid crisis hit the global stage.
But the transformation of the maritime industry comes with its unique challenges. While satellite continues to be the go-to solution to connect offshore vessels, its available bandwidth and cost limitations have been some of the barriers to adopting IoT, new systems, and cloud-based business applications. However, with the evolution of LTE and the emergence of 5G, wireless connectivity is gaining, rightfully, some attention when it comes to connecting vessels nearshore.
Is it time to say bye-bye-satellite?
Hold your horses – I mean, hold your vessels. Nobody in maritime is giving up their satellite dish. Yet. The truth is satellite continues to get faster and more accessible as companies continue to upgrade these systems. However, the hunger for data is growing even faster. Whether for business applications, smart vessel components, crew WIFI, or day-to-day operations, data consumption is exploding, and with this, 5G/LTE is rapidly becoming satellite’s new best friend. For the more good news, network operators are building more coverage close to shore and even offshore, such as Tampnet, offering connectivity without any land in sight.
When both technologies are combined, routers onboard can utilize both internet connections, switch automatically, and ‘load-balance’ network traffic as they come in and out of coverage, providing the most reliable signal available to the vessel – and the most cost-effective for the business.