Software-Defined, hybrid VSAT and Terrestrial connectivity

11 Apr, 2019

Cruising through uncharted waters

How can cruise industry leverage Software defined WAN to accelerate digitalization and improve passenger QoE, without increasing cost?

What do you need to know to pick the right solution while avoiding potential challenges

The next three years will be a period of economic and technological disruption in maritime connectivity.Not only are incumbent operators launching advanced HTS-class satellites on both Ku and Ka bands, but well-funded new satellite companies are also preparing NGSO constellations. Multi-orbit, multi-band satellite along with alternate access technologies like 5G will be able to drive a step change in power, efficiency, coverage and cost. In coming years, new satellites, constellations and access technologies will create new opportunitiesa and use cases. Bandwidth cost will continue to decline, while lower latency will improve end-user experience. For customers, two fundamental questions remain: how to deliver gigabits capacity as data demand skyrockets, and how to unlock the value created by multi-access, multi-orbit hybrid connectivity solutions?

Software-Defined Hybrid Connectivity

What defines a Hybrid environment?

There are three essential qualities. First, Hybrid networks utilize multiple modes for data transport e.g terrestrial (cellular, WiFi) and/or satellite connectivity (C, Ku, Ka), Second, they use multiple frequencies with simultaneous operations across bands and orbits. Third, they feature network pipes with different latencies and bandwidth. In hybrid multi-access, multi-band connectivity solutions, vessels have access to multiple WANs. In a singleantenna installation, the remote switches beams when necessary for geographical or traffic management reasons. A single pipe carries upstream and downstream traffic.

In multi-orbit, multi-access hybrid solution such as a vessel with Ku, C, WiFi and 4G/5G the on-board system should route and prioritize data flow among the pipes using intelligent business logic, segregating upstream and downstream traffic and optimizing routing for performance and/or economic goals.

Why Hybrid connectivity?

Hybrid connectivity solutions when implemented right, unlocks multiple opportunities for maritime customers. Key benefits include,

  • Unprecedented bandwidth scalability
  • Increased system availability and security
  • Reduced TCO

In addition, hybrid connectivity is a key enabler for cruise operations and customer experience digitalization

Challenges in managing Hybrid connectivity?

Hybrid connectivity solutions also bring in new management and configuration challenges. Traffic management and Wide-Area Network (WAN) complexity will increase as traditional QoS and routing architectures should be changed fundamentally. On-board systems should be application aware to route traffic based on application and WAN performance. On-board IT team should be able to manage disparate connectivity options through a single pane of glass and application performance across all connectivity services should be reported in a single dashboard for ease of management.

The question for IT team and their integration partners is straightforward: how to benefit from hybrid connectivity solutions without increasing total cost of ownership and complexity

What do you need to know to pick the right solution?

#1 Software Defined WAN Management

The system should be able to route traffic seamlessly through available WAN options based on application, geo-location of the vessel, available link bandwidth, network performance or economic goals. E.g. when operating MODCOD drops on one link, the system should dynamically reallocate appropriate amount of traffic to other available WAN options.

#2 Centralized traffic management across hybrid connections

The system should be able to enforce QoS across multiple links so that traffic routed over multiple WAN connections is accounted and managed. Prioritization and dynamic bandwidth allocation for QoS classes should be performed in a central engine that has visibility to all available links

#3 Adaptive bandwidth estimation

Since VSAT connectivity offerings have a committed CIR and burstable MIR, the system should have the intelligence to estimate bandwidth availability on TDMA and dynamic SCPC links. This will increase bandwidth reliability in dynamic environments. Also, accurate estimation of VSAT bandwidth will enable intelligent traffic management across multiple WAN connections thereby reducing total bandwidth cost.

#4 Data plane encryption

Since user traffic might be routed over 3rd party network, the system should support end to end encryption ensuring data integrity.

#5 Centralized reporting & visibility

Customer should manage disparate connectivity options through a single pane of glass. Granular, application level visibility should provide insight on application performance as its routed over disparate connectivity options.


Hybrid connectivity leveraging multi-band, multi-orbit and multi-access technologies is the future of maritime connectivity. While the potential is huge, customers should pick the right solution that can manage applications and bandwidth across multiple disparate connections. It should be software driven, fully automated to drive lower economics and increase data efficiency. The right solution is software defined, intelligent, secure and should seamlessly integrate new access technologies as they become available.

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