Connecting ships across the North Sea

North link ferry

A major Scottish ferry operator required a robust maritime broadband connectivity solution that fulfilled two primary requirements, connectivity for the ships operations and internet connectivity for its passengers with the goal of improving operational management and customer satisfaction across the fleet.

The Challenge

They were looking for a reliable and always-on broadband solution for their three passenger ferries that allowed customers to access free internet whilst on board. Alongside this, the ferry operator also required a scaled back service for their freight shipping vessels. During peak periods the number of broadband users per ship may be as high as 600 with some passengers having more than one device connected to the internet at any one time.

Woodsons of Aberden, a UK technology leader in the Maritime industry was looking for a cost-effective solution that would maintain secure data separation between ships operational data and passenger data.

The Solution

The VSAT service deployed was via Avanti’s HYLAS 4 Ka-band satellite, which provides 100% coverage of the ships’ routes across the North Sea. Avanti provides a private dedicated bandwidth pool shared between the five ferries and freight vessels.

Operational and passenger bandwidth is kept separate using VLAN technology which is a common network topology used to segregate different networks (LANs) over one communications link. The service delivers an 18Mbps downlink (download, shore to ship)/ 6Mbps uplink (upload, ship to shore).

Thanks to Avanti’s dynamic bandwidth pool management solution, the ferry operator is able to manage bandwidth across the fleet, as well as providing prioritisation of voice, data and video.

The network is automatically adjusting at all times to meet the changing demands on a needs driven basis. Various control mechanisms in the network prioritise applications to ensure each site and application meets its minimum bandwidth requirements.

The Results 

Avanti’s HYLAS 4 Ka-band satellite is providing six times more capacity than the previous legacy Ku-band system and delivering significant cost savings at the same time.

The new solution has enabled the bridge to access operational services in real time with much faster web access and downloads.

The restaurant and bar till transactions using card readers were very poor using the old service with multiple failures but this has now improved to virtually 100% with the new VSAT solution and the crew are also now able to access the on-line booking service which was previously unattainable.

This reiterates the advantages of Ka-Band technology, which is typically 4 times more powerful than traditional Ku-band satellites and comes with the additional benefit of comparatively low operating costs in terms of both bandwidth and VSAT hardware (smaller antennas can handle higher data rates when compared to Ku).


We are excited about the partnership with Avanti Communications Group plc. In the last year this has enabled us to supply a new highspeed VSAT service on the ferries serving the Northern Isles. The new service, using Avanti’s Ka-band high throughput satellite, provides a significant increase in capacity for the ferries with fully scalable and dedicated bandwidth for both corporate operations and passengers.

Steven Wood, Woodsons of Aberdeen Managing Director

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