Next-Generation Network targeting the cruise industry, NEXUS is a Satellite and Terrestrial Hybrid Solution to Deliver Video Streaming, Social Media and Image-Sharing Capabilities
The advent of maritime communications is at a crossroads of sorts, with increased demand for connectivity that mirrors land-based performance, but still stuck at a price point which makes this reality too costly.
The situation is particularly poignant onboard modern cruise ships, packed with thousands of passengers and crew that want and need to stay connected.
Enter MTN Satellite Communications which today announced the launch of its MTN Nexus, the company’s next-generation communications network. MTN Nexus is billed as a hybrid network that integrates it with new terrestrial wireless technologies as well as sophisticated computing, powerful processing and specialized optimization.
“Passengers and crew (onboard cruise ships) no longer accept limitations,” said Errol Olivier, CEO and president of MTN. “They want to stream video, post their updates on Facebook and share vacation images with friends … or even family members sailing with them on the same ship. MTN Nexus bridges the gap between land-based and sea-based connectivity and content. Today we are enabling our cruise operator customers with a solution to cater their business models to the always-connected generation that is now entering the cruise demographic.”
According to Olivier, who met with Maritime Reporter in New York last week during the SATCON exhibition, the VSAT market has evolved past the notion of simply throwing more bandwidth at the problem.
“VSAT providers are looking to sell more bandwidth, but that not the solution for providing services on these cruise lines, where the demand is exponentially growing every year; it’s just not feasible to keep throwing bandwith at it,” said Olivier. “But yet, bandwith is part of the solution … it is going to require more bandwidth, but also other things to solve the problem. That’s what we are here to do: not to simply sell more bandwith, but to solve the problem of connectivity with the mobile devices.”
Olivier has been with MTN for just 1.5 years, but he is an industry veteran of more than two decades, with leading executive roles previously at Caprock and Broadpoint. According to a recent Business Insider report, consumers expect to be connected everywhere, as evidenced by the more than 2 billion people online via Internet devices today. Skyrocketing bandwidth consumption extends beyond home and work. Smartphone sales overtook PC sales in 2011, and passengers and crew are bringing them on board more than ever.
MTN Nexus is a network that integrates VSAT satellite connectivity with land-based wireless such as Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, WiMAX and LTE to make at-sea consumption possible. It also leverages a cloud computing platform for efficient management of high-bandwidth vessel requirements. MTN Nexus is engineered to seamlessly integrates three critical components into one maritime communications solution:
1. A hybrid satellite and terrestrial wireless network.
2. A cloud computing-based optimization platform.
3. New products and services only enabled through this hybrid solution.
MTN recently made an investment in cruise-specific payloads through the launch of Intelsat’s EpicNG satellite constellation. MTN partnered with Intelsat to carefully engineer delivery of maximum bit-to-hertz efficiency through Intelsat Epic. The result is anticipated to be unmatched throughput and global interoperability to key cruising areas around the world. The first satellite in the constellation is scheduled to launch in 2015.
MTN also created its High Throughput Multi-Spot Beam (HTMS) solution to extend the promise of Intelsat Epic. Through MTN HTMS, vessels will be able to seamlessly roam between MTN HTMS beams and conventional Ku-beams. This collaboration will ensure global coverage and redundancy while reducing cost and antenna complexities. MTN service will remain backward-compatible with existing Ku-band satellite systems, current network infrastructure and customer-preferred network topology, making it the most interoperable network available. MTN is combining these satellite capabilities with the ability to “light up” ports with near- and in-port solutions through terrestrial wireless technologies. As vessels move into port, switching to the Wi-Fi infrastructure, MTN will seamlessly reallocate unneeded satellite capacity back to ships at sea.
MTN ShipCloud is the integrated shoreside and shipboard platform that will build on the MTN Nexus hybrid network to support higher-demand onboard applications. Leveraging cloud computing technology, MTN ShipCloud will deliver powerful processing and caching of data and content. MTN ShipCloud is designed to decrease time and costs associated with at-sea applications, delivering a better end-user experience.
Products and Services
The combination of the MTN Nexus network and the MTN ShipCloud platform also is designed to deliver an opportunity to unveil new at-sea communications products and services:
1. MTN Internet access — MTN’s enhanced Internet Café offering will deliver optimal speeds, customizable interfaces to match each cruise line’s objectives and guest demographics, and streamlined logins/logouts.
2. MTN Facebook application — This new application will optimize passengers’ favored social media properties for minimal bandwidth consumption, enabling them to update their statuses, check in, and store and post images.
3. MTN Connect at Sea — MTN Connect at Sea enables crew to use voice and short-message services with others on the same ship over a Wi-Fi network. It also enables making and receiving calls from land as well as ship-to-ship calling.
4. MTN Worldwide TV Version 2 — MTN Worldwide TV is maritime’s first fully digital, licensed, multichannel, global TV service. Passengers will enjoy news and entertainment internationally through uninterrupted streaming Wi-Fi to handheld devices anywhere on the vessel and in their cabins.