Globe Wireless is a leading player in providing communications, operational and IT solutions to the maritime industry. Earlier this summer at Posidonia 2012 in Athens the company announced that it would launches its latest software release, R6 for Globe iFusion in July 2012; a free upgrade to all existing users. While software enhancements and upgrades are commonplace across the IT community, this one is significant for a number of reasons, according to Mark Witsaman, CTO, Globe Wireless.
“This particular one (software upgrade) is a pretty big leap,” said Witsaman. “Globe Wireless has been one of the trailblazers in putting GSM on commercial ships, but GSM has one drawback: You have to have a GSM phone to use it, and if you’re In port and it’s switched off for security reasons, you can’t use it. What we’ve done is extended this to the fixed lines on the ships, using the mariner’s GSM pin code. This is a massive advantage, particularly on the billing end of the service. The call will be charged to the individual mariner’s personal account, so the ship owner does not even see that on their bill.” The software will feature the following enhancements:
• A Fixed-Multiple Voice solution for Fleet Broadband: There is not a lot of them out there. INMARSAT has just introduced this, but with them it’s only one number. We can map multiple numbers, multiple accounts, said Witsaman.
• VSAT Auto-Recovery Tools, or a means to more rapidly recover the VSAT, with active monitoring built. According to Witsaman, on many occasions the iFusion box can actually fix the problem and help recover the system without any action from shore.
R6 for Globe iFusion takes the existing GlobeMobile multiple voice lines, currently on over 1000 FB vessels, using it as a VoIP solution. This enables multiple calls using Globe’s unique Digital Quality Voice (DQV) technology – which is very high-quality voice that Witsaman says will sound better than a standard call – on both the GSM and VoIP phones over a standard FB terminal.
In this release, the Globe iFusion Fixed-Multiple Voice solution allows up to five inbound and outbound calls over DQV, while the standard circuit switched voice line remains free at all time for the captain’s use or for emergencies, which is a Globe Wireless pioneering element.
One of key features of Fixed-Multiple Voice is the ability to assign international phone numbers from over 60 countries to each phone line onboard reducing the cost to call the ship from shore as no 870 number is required.
Customers who have offices in the UK, Singapore, or Italy, for example, can have a local in-country number that will be routed to the vessel and the vessel will be charged the same rate as if they were making the call from ship to shore. R6 for Globe iFusion will support up to 8 VoIP handsets onboard the vessel and POTs handset plugged directly into the i250. Each handset is configured from shore via Globe iPortalallowing a simple name to be assigned, an international inbound number if requested, PIN codes to restrict outbound calls, and split billing for sub-accounts. PINs can be created as needed either fleet wide or per ship. Even pre-pay PINS may be used that are independent or tied to a GlobeMobile GSM account. In the case of a chartered vessel the charterer would have a unique PIN and all calls will be billed under a sub-account in the customers invoice each month. According to Witsaman, there are two primary factors driving IT and maritime communications use onboard commercial vessels today.
“Ships are becoming more sophisticated, and with broadband more widely available to the ships, the IT departments are finding new ways to take advantage of it. It used to be all email, but increasingly vessel owners are looking at remote processes and access.”
Another driver, according to Witsaman, is the fact that crews are are demanding to be more connected. “A lot of the features we offer (such as GSM service) is aimed toward that”
Key VSAT Back-up and Recovery
R6 for Globe iFusion contains additional VSAT features developed to keep VSAT terminals online, requiring less backup L-Band usage. Automated scripts monitor the VSAT system and will attempt to auto-recover the system with no intervention by technicians or crew. If auto-recovery does not work the Globe iFusion, via L-Band backup, allows the Globe Wireless VSAT technician remote access to all the core components and systems onboard.
“This new feature assures the customer that over 95% of all outages are recovered remotely. We have found that for every one vessel that does require a visit another 20-25 vessels are brought back online remotely,” said Brad Rogers, Director, VSAT Engineering. He went on to say “With our live monitoring, typically within one hour of any outage, our engineers are already online checking the system and coverage.”
In ongoing efforts to help vessel owners monitor and contain communication costs, R6 for Globe iFusionwill also includes a pre-paid and sponsored email solution. Via Globe iPortal, customers can set up sponsored monthly quotas with message size limits, allowing the customer to control how much, sponsored email the crew can use. These settings can be configured fleet wide or specific for each crew member allowing officers more usage for example or as a bonus for good work.
The pre-paid account can be tied to the crew members GlobeMobile GSM account allowing them to share the pre-paid balance between GSM calls, pre-paid Fixed-Multiple Voice, email and SMS. Crew members will be able to pick up any Fixed-Multiple Voice handsets, enter a PIN and password and pay the same rate as the GlobeMobile service.
If a crew member has a GlobeMobile number and uses a Fixed-Multiple Voice line, the end user on shore will see the GlobeMobile number on their phone as the caller ID rather than the vessels phone number. If there is no GlobeMobile number associated with the crew member then no number is displayed. These features will be available on VSAT and FB terminals.
(As Published in the August 2012 edition of Maritime Reporter - www.marinelink.com)