10 May Red Funnel On-Board WiFi and Ship-To-Shore Connectivity
Red Funnel is one of the UK’s oldest ferry operators, running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with a modern fleet of passenger and vehicle carrying ferries.
As the original Isle of Wight ferry company, over 3.4 million passengers travel with Red Funnel each year. In order to ensure customers receive the best possible service, Red Funnel decided to improve their ship-to-shore Ethernet network connectivity.
Early in 2014 Red Funnel approached Trellisworks to establish an innovative solution that could provide seamless Ethernet network connectivity. The challenge included delivering a continuous connection on its ferry routes between Southampton and East and West Cowes on the Isle of Wight. As part of their service offer, Red Funnel also wanted to provide passengers with uninterrupted and high speed internet access throughout the 19km journey. Carrying up to 3,240 passengers at any time, the data demand would be high, and a robust and flexible solution would be required to meet such a demand.
After an initial consultation period, detailed site surveys and operational field trials, Trellisworks opted to create a unique hybridised solution, which involved combining state-of-the-art point-to-multipoint radio links with an integrated 3G/4G based wireless backup mobile data routing system.
Working in partnership with Infinet, Trellisworks began operational field trials in November 2014. Initially, a series of radio base stations at key locations along the sailing route had to be established to support continuous connectivity from each vessel to the Red Funnel network. This required the installation of client antennas at strategic locations on each vessel. This was particularly difficult as the existing Red Funnel communication system had to remain fully operational without interruption or interference until transfer to the new system.
The new wireless ship to shore communication system utilises multiple wireless connections between the vessel and shore base stations during the voyage to ensure a ‘make before break’ solution. As the vessel moves away from one base station and the initial connection weakens, a second radio links automatically to the next base station before the initial connection drops; creating a seamless handover of network and data transfer resulting in an uninterrupted service.
Over the course of 2015, a total of 8 radio base stations were established, each vessel being installed with 6 corresponding client radios that ensures network connections are maintained regardless of the ship’s facing or position. These client radios provide 100Mbps throughput, with a minimum of 20Mbps full duplex and maintain less than 1% packet loss over the voyage, with very low latency.
To ensure system resiliency, particularly during the initial installation phase when a number of vessels were not ready for radio installation, Pepwave wireless routers were installed. These devices function as a backup to the main radio links and operate as a hot standby should the main radio solution fail.
Pepwave wireless routers utilise both 3G and 4G SIMs from a variety of network operators. These devices are amongst the leaders of the mobile data routing industry and balance the connection provided by various network SIMs installed for flawless resiliency. As these routers utilise a cellular mobile service, separate from the radio links, they are able to seamlessly jump in and carry the weight of the connection if a fault arises with the primary radio link, with no noticeable effect on the user experience.
Working in tandem, these two solutions create a multi-layered, comprehensive and cost-effective solution, unique in its ability to cope with high-volume usage on a mobile vessel. Red Funnel is one of the busiest passenger ferry fleets in the UK, and across all of their vessels passengers can easily use over 100GB of data daily, a figure which can triple as the Isle of Wight Festival and Bestival draw thousands of additional visitors to and from the island.
Due to the resiliency of this solution, the separated nature of the primary and secondary connection methods, the high quality equipment and expertise of Trellisworks in constructing and installing the system, the user experience on all vessels has been consistently excellent, both in design and application.
Jonathan Green, Marketing and Communications Director at Red Funnel said, ‘We’re thrilled with how this solution has helped us to provide first rate connectivity for our passengers. We are committed to providing the best services for our customers, and the expertise, hard work and ingenuity of Trellisworks in constructing a solution capable of meeting and exceeding our needs has been integral in achieving this.’
Grant Holman, Trellisworks Project Manager said, ‘Working within the constraints of physics and regulations, we are extremely proud that we have overcome the unique obstacles for this requirement. Now, Red Funnel can deliver seamless, high-speed connectivity and secure internet access throughout the vessels’ journeys ultimately enhancing the user experience. It’s great to see that Red Funnel are exceptionally happy with the outcome and services Trellisworks has provided and the positive impact this has on their level of service.’
Due to the success of the project Red Funnel can confirm 100% deployment across the entire fleet. including its three high-speed Red Jet vessels and its three passenger vehicle ferries. Red Funnel’s new high-speed vessel, Red Jet 6 will also be similarly equipped when she enters service in July 2016.
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