A new survey by Futurenautics & Vodafone on near shore connectivity, that surveyed more than a hundred ship operators and suppliers, representing 6,000 ships, highlights the untapped potential for 4G/LTE connectivity.
In recent years, the commercial shipping industry has had to come to terms with a variety of external pressures, from environmental concerns and Globalisation 4.0 to new technologies and increasing digitalisation, which all have placed additional burdens on the sector’s ability to grow and prosper. In order to realise operational efficiencies, many ship operators are in the process of digitalising their processes, and as the amount of data that is transmitted to and from ships continues to grow, connectivity is increasingly important.
Cover: Near Shore Connectivity whitepaper.
Until now, the high cost, and limited bandwidth, of satellite ship-to-shore connectivity has been a barrier to the widespread adoption of technology. However, the research shows that nearly 90% of all data generated on board never leaves the ship, which means operators are losing out on valuable insight and analytics that could improve performance and efficiency. Equally, nearly half (42%) of the data that is sent ashore is not time-sensitive, only needing to be shared once a week or once every voyage.
Whilst there is no 4G reception in the middle of the ocean, a ship spends 60% of its time in port or coastal waters where it would be within reach of a mobile connection. Near-shore 4G networks could be used while in port or coastal waters or providing a cost-effective way of access under-utilised data.
The survey recognises that satellite connectivity is and will remain the primary solution in shipping, as it is the best option for deep-sea operations and emergency communications. However, to date, 4G has been largely been overlooked as a complementary service that can deliver real benefits to both ship operations and crew welfare. With 38% of ships already fitted with 4G/LTE solutions there is significant scope to extend maritime connectivity using 4G/LTE to complement satellite networks. Currently, the majority of the 4G solutions used on-board ships have been fitted to reduce overall communication costs, provide a backup to existing satellite solutions or crew connectivity, rather than to transmit operational data back to shore.
Today 4G/LTE delivers lower hardware investment, higher speeds, unlimited capacity and less latency than satellite. As the industry move toward an autonomous, interconnected digital future, vessels will be increasingly reliant on both satellite and LTE bandwidth.
Source: Hellenic Shipping News.