Telenor Satellite and Marel Electronics team up to provide top notch connectivity services for ferry passengers. With the XipLink WAN optimisation solution, passengers and crew will experience a new level of satellite connectivity at sea.
Caption: With Telenor Satellite’s Managed XipLink solution installed, passengers and crew onboard Celestial Olympia are among the first to experience land connectivity at sea. (Left to right: Vinay Saride, System Engineer; Manuel Valero, Sr. Sales Manager and Rokas Abazorius, Technical Service Manager at Telenor Satellite.)
When cruise and ferry vessels resumed activities in 2021 following the pandemic, Marel Electronics, the Greek based specialist supplier and service company for ship communications and bridge navigation electronics, found that demand for connectivity from its passenger ferry clients had increased enormously.
The company is the major supplier to the Greek market and, although it provides some FM, VHF marine radio and GMDSS products, the vast majority of its services are VSAT, 100% of which uses Telenor Satellite’s THOR fleet. Having been in business since 1964 and in the telecommunications sector for the past fifteen years, Marel Electronics is well known in the industry and works not only with passenger vessels but also in the more specialised research ship sector where scientists conduct ocean and oil research requiring significant VSAT services to support their onboard operations, tutorials and video conferences.
High demand for connectivity from passengers
Explains Thanos Kyrtatas, the company’s Sales Manager for the Telecommunications Department, “Our clients on THOR 7’s Ka-band were taking the largest profile that was available to them, 24/6 Mbps, but were finding that it was simply inadequate for the high volume of traffic being generated, particularly during the summer months when they have between 1,500 and 2,000 passengers onboard. The high demand was causing congestion and so we were searching for a solution. We knew what we needed but didn’t know if anything actually existed that would solve the problem.”
XipLink is the dream solution for ferry connectivity
Talking to Telenor Satellite’s Key Account Manager, Manuel Valero, it became clear that a solution could be found with the XipLink WAN optimisation solution. It is a leading Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) acceleration solution specifically targeted at satellite and wireless networks. As Manuel said, “My sole motivation is to support our partners in achieving their goals, so I was very pleased to be able to offer a product that would answer their needs.”
And for Thanos, the decision to trial it was easy. “It was exactly what we had dreamt of finding so we had no hesitation in testing it out, firstly over a couple of days in our offices but then on one of our client’s vessels.”
Satellite engineers worked from the vessel
MINOAN LINES is one of the largest shipping companies in Europe and they were delighted that Marel Electronics had found a solution to the problems they were experiencing with communications congestion. The decision was taken to start testing as soon as possible and Telenor Satellite’s engineers, along with Manuel, headed over to the vessel so that they could support the Marel team as they installed the XipLink equipment. Adds Manuel, “Both teams are passionate and highly skilled, so we were well equipped for this complex installation.”
For consistency, the Telenor Satellite engineers also configured their hub at the Nittedal Teleport from the vessel so that the Marel engineers could play an active part in how the system would be configured. This meant that everyone was prepared for the system being rolled out across other vessels in the future and also gave the Telenor Satellite team the opportunity to understand how critical its services are to Marel’s customers.
“Marel Electronics is a long-standing customer we have worked with since the very beginning of our THOR 7 Ka-band service commercially launch in 2016. We have come to know them as a very competent organisation and so were very confident in working together with their engineers,” said Jan Hetland, Director Data Services division at Telenor Satellite.
Prompt and helpful response
While the testing phase with new equipment can often be a challenge, Marel Electronics was sure any issues would be swiftly dealt with. “We have found Telenor Satellite to be not only a prestigious partner but also a practical one. We are known for the high quality of our customer service, but this is made possible by the support and tools that they provide in terms of monitoring data rate throughput, volume of data being consumed, and signal to noise ratio to name just a few. The Bridge – Telenor Satellite’s online customer portal, allows us to check our stats and keep a close eye on how our links are performing but, whenever we do need to contact the Network Operations Centre (NOC), we always get a prompt and helpful response. Our customers tell us that we provide the best service in the market and that is largely due to Telenor Satellite’s work in the background.”
Installation of XipLink can be a complex procedure with many different parameters to be configured – not least because it is dependent on the number of sessions likely to be in use at any given time. On the Minoan Lines vessel, which travels overnight between Greece and Crete, it was estimated that 6,000 sessions would be needed per trip during winter with the number likely to rise significantly during the summer tourist season. The number of sessions is not just driven by passengers using the internet to view content or email, but also through the use of banking, payments and loyalty cards onboard – everything is done via the web.
Communications traffic is optimised
The XipLink device sits between the modem and the firewall, so it doesn’t slow down or affect the running of systems and apps – what it does is to manage the traffic to ensure that it is optimised. It does this by caching sessions ready for when they are next needed with the upshot that the second person to download that particular content, and anyone else who follows, is receiving it direct from a local device rather than over the satellite. This frees up bandwidth and improves the perceived speed of the service being delivered.
25% increase in passenger uptake
Thanos continues, “Everyone on board who used the system during the test phase had the impression that they were using a land-based service rather than satellite as the speed and latency were so good. In fact, the improvements were immediately obvious. The installation was extremely smooth and within ten days our client had placed the order for their entire fleet of four massive ferries to be fitted with XipLink.
“We have been so pleased by the feedback from both Minoan Lines and their passengers too, which has been overwhelmingly positive. There has been an increase of 25% in onboard internet card sales.”
The modems in use on the ferries were not designed to handle the heavy communications traffic experienced today and they had been performing slowly due to the number of sessions. With XipLink taking over the processing, the system no longer flatlines but has a healthy variability in bandwidth being delivered and the modems are running perfectly.
Adds Jan Hetland: “We are delighted that we were able to jointly deploy the Xiplink solution to such great effect for Marel Electronics’ client.”
Service quality that is rarely found
Concludes Thanos, “The results have been so good that that we are recommending Telenor Satellite’s XipLink solution to all of our clients who could benefit from it. Telenor Satellite has provided wonderful support throughout the implementation process, giving on-vessel training to our engineers and providing back up as and when it is needed. What’s more, the company has a flexible policy with regards to licensing which means that our clients have only needed to pay for sessions they have actually used. Telenor Satellite’s service is of a quality that is frequently missing from modern life and everyone at Marel Electronics really appreciates it.”
To find out more about Marel Electronics, visit: https://marel.gr/
To learn more about MINOAN LINES, visit: https://www.minoan.gr/en/company/history-en
Discover Telenor Satellite’s Managed XipLink solution: https://www.telenorsat.com/xiplink-wan-optimizer/