There’s already speculation in some quarters regarding the potential role that 5G can play in the super yacht sector, drawing on other activities within the maritime industry. It will certainly enable new applications, enhance automation and help deliver better coverage for both people and devices – but let’s make sure we get LTE right first.
One of the most interesting things about 5G is the attention being paid to how it can help different sectors and verticals. Unlike previous generations of mobile communications technology, 5G supports a range of different kinds of services and can be optimized for each. It is not simply an evolution towards faster speeds or higher capacity; it unlocks a new range of use cases.
As a result, there’s interest from a wide range of industries in how 5G can play a role in enhancing connectivity and enabling new applications. It’s not simply about making something better, but doing entirely new things. The maritime sector is already making strides to develop new use cases – from connected freight ships, to smart ports, 5G provides new capacity and performance benefits to enhance efficiency and to enable dedicated networks through techniques such as slicing.
So, it’s no surprise that the super yacht sector should also be exploring how 5G can provide new services, as has recently been reported. Influenced by developments on shore, in ports such as Tallinn in Estonia – and, interestingly, by extension to passenger ships that use these facilities (the idea being that 5G provides enhanced coverage that allows all of the passengers when in port to access higher-speed connections), there’s growing interest in what 5G can offer to super yachts, which have become complex vessels.
Because 5G supports multiple parallel applications (that is, not simply voice and high-speed broadband), it can also be used to facilitate information transfer from sensors that collect data. Accelerating this process could reduce the time needed to be in port, or facilitate new transactions, perhaps supported by blockchain for customs and immigration clearance – all of which is as just as applicable to super yachts as it is to freighters.
In addition, on board private networks on super yachts could also enable better near-shore connectivity, as many such vessels cruise along coastal routes. That’s an area in which Telecom26 has already deployed solutions for LTE, allowing better coverage and performance when in range of macro cellular networks, and efficient transfer to full mobile services onboard with satellite backhaul when offshore outside of territorial waters. 5G will constitute an upgrade on this and will also allow more effective management of local wireless devices, such as for IoT applications. Think remote maintenance and data upload, as well as tracking, for example.
However, while there’s some hype about 5G, one also needs to be realistic. It’s unlikely that 5G will creep into the super yacht sector before 2021. Our experience shows that the focus for the next year will be in building out more LTE capabilities in the sector, to enable automation of some maintenance tasks. Most current yachts have yet to take advantage of 4G, so it’s a bit of a stretch to imagine that 5G will be deployed any time soon. Instead, larger freight and passenger vessels are likely to drive marine adoption, as indicated in the trials noted in the article.
However, that’s not to say that 5G is just hype – and it will definitely play a role in both the shipping and super yacht sectors. 5G offers clear advantages and will facilitate new ways of managing on-board equipment and communication. It’s going to happen and it’s merely a matter of when. As a result, we must consider two things. First, the sector has to become aware of the benefits that 5G can offer, which is an education and awareness challenge.
Second, new deployments must be made so that they can easily be upgraded in the future – it’s essential to make sure that today’s investments can be updated and can be leveraged, so that ROI is maintained. That’s what we’re working on, so if you want to plan ahead and make sure that your ship or yacht connectivity has the right roadmap to 5G, then get in touch and we’ll help you benefit from LTE today while preparing for new 5G-enabled applications tomorrow.