Keeping Customers Connected at Sea, by Cynthia Gillis, Senior Vice President Maritime, Energy, Government.

May 6, 2021

Connectivity is a dynamic and innovative sector, and with Global Eagle’s renewed focus on mobility markets, we see plenty of opportunities to create and implement powerful solutions for our customers.

My background is in both energy and connectivity, where I have been working for more than 20 years. I started in oil and gas as an ocean engineer designing rigs, then sold offshore oil rigs, and eventually went to work for Honeywell and Harris CapRock, so I have a pretty good understanding of what it’s like to be on a rig and disconnected from “normal” life.

This experience, and the experience of my team, gives us a leg up when it comes to our clients’ needs -- whether in commercial, cruise, yacht, energy or government—so we can provide robust, consistent, and reliable communications, wherever they are in the world.

Satellite connectivity and the ‘space race’

With most people stuck at home over the past year, they have come to expect access to fast, powerful internet whenever they want. This expectation will drive maritime organizations to adopt the latest technologies so they can deliver an ‘on-land’ experience to their guests and colleagues.

While geostationary orbit (GEO) satellite constellations bring great results right now, low earth orbit (LEO), which is coming soon, will provide a step-change in being able to meet our customers’ future connectivity needs. With new constellations actively being launched, there are plenty of options to choose from, and we continue to work closely with operators to create both solutions for today and a roadmap for tomorrow.

It’s important to remain flexible to developments in this sector. As our CEO Josh Marks said in his ‘Future of Global Eagle’ article, we believe the future lies in hybrid solutions where LEO, GEO and terrestrial network technologies work together to deliver internet options that meet expected performance requirements and offer a good return on investment.

The demand for more bandwidth

One benefit of remaining flexible to connectivity options means we can offer the bandwidth, bidirectional links and latency our clients require for their applications. Greater throughput is important to each of our customer markets. For example, within Energy we combine multiple beams to seamlessly deliver a connection that allows operational data priority but also enhances the crew experience, enabling video calls as well as access to entertainment services and fast internet browsing.

Equally, cruise and shipping lines need large amounts of bandwidth for crew, as well as passengers. As our infrastructure grows, our clients will benefit from high-quality Wi-Fi, voice, texting and live TV services as the demand for bandwidth increases.

Our Network Resource Management system monitors internet consumption, from browsing to video streaming, and prioritizes this usage over background data traffic, including software updates and large file transfers. This proprietary technology is constantly being worked on so we can precisely manage bandwidth, maximizing every megabit of data to match user demand, and we see great potential here in the future.  

Safe operations

Connectivity is a huge component of operating safely when out at sea. Ensuring continuous access to those on land, whether through cloud-based software or other means, is critical for crews to be able to rapidly action key communications so they remain responsive to any changes.

The delivery of complex solutions to vessels at sea does bring wider implications for cyber-attacks, which are fast-growing in maritime. As this technology evolves, so too does the protection we offer.

We have therefore developed our own cyber security product in-house, giving customers the option the purchase their network security compliance directly from their Global Eagle WAN service provider. Our solution focuses on Operational Technology segregation and compliant topology, with many other features tailored to the individual needs of our customers. We continually monitor and update this product to keep these attacks at bay and ensure a safe environment for all involved.

Future connections

We have plenty to offer the maritime, energy and government markets. During the pandemic, air freight boomed, as did commercial shipping. After oil prices plummeted in 2020, they recovered strongly and the energy industry is recovering fast as global economies pick back up. There is a need for powerful, reliable, scalable connectivity within all our mobility sectors. The Global Eagle team is working towards a future where our customers always receive the most effective solution for their specific requirements and ambitions.