Wanderlust Blog

Posts Tagged ‘internet’

Here at Amazing Journeys, we’re lucky have the best jobs in the world—and we think our good fortune is worth sharing. So, when your next journey seems like a distant dream, take a few minutes to explore our WANDERLUST blog—it’s chock full of engaging tales and helpful tips from our travels around the world. Check out the most recent entry (at the top) or search by your preferred criteria. Consider it motivation for your next embarkation.

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Cruise industry seeking big jump in telecom speeds

Monday, November 25th, 2013

If you’ve ever been on a cruise and decided that leaving your emails behind just wasn’t for you, you probably wished you had.  Understandably some people need to stay connected even while on vacation….maybe for work purposes or to stay in touch with a sick relative or just to chronicle the vacation to friends on facebook back home.  The frustrations of online connectivity while sailing at sea aboard a passenger cruise ship has long been a thorn in the industries bow and stern.   Slow connections and dropped communications coupled with charges so deep even the waters of the Atlantic Ocean couldn’t compare, have long been maddening and mounting means of angst in an otherwise blissful vacation experience.  Fortunately, that’s about to change.

Faced with accelerating demands by passengers for digital connections for their mobile devices, cruise lines are pushing vendors for faster, cheaper, more reliable telecommunications at sea. In response, the satellite providers are getting creative in their efforts to provide the bandwidth that enables Internet access, social media use and other telecom services. Solutions include creating a hybrid of satellite and land-based carrier networks, installing additional antennae on ships for more flexible, reliable signal tracking and using satellites in lower orbits to reduce signal transmission times. In some cases, passengers can expect a “dramatic” rise in the speed of Internet access from the ships, one analyst said. The innovations from companies such as MTN Satellite Communications and Harris CapRock are being implemented now, although they won’t start being ready for use until next year or 2015. 

“There are a whole series of new technologies and satellites that are going to be available in the coming couple of years that will greatly improve the performance and the available bandwidth on those ships,” said Rick Simonian, president of maritime solutions at Harris CapRock. With its purchase of CapRock Communications in 2010, Harris Corp. embraced a commitment to the cruise ship segment.  Since then, it has won contracts with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Carnival Corp. to install new equipment and provide services. Its contract with Carnival, disclosed in mid-October, covers more than 100 ships in the fleets of 10 Carnival brands. Harris CapRock said it will provide bandwidth levels higher than those previously available on each fleet to meet “new service requirements Carnival set for its guests and crew.” Simonian said a key piece of the puzzle is installation of more than one satellite antenna on each ship. Most ships, he said, have a single antenna, housed in a spherical dome fixed to the ship’s mast.

“The problem with that is that if the ship is turning and the line of sight to the satellite gets blocked by the smokestack, or if they’re in some other obstruction, then the service goes down,” he said.
Two antennae mitigate that problem and will also be capable of switching back and forth between different radio frequencies, C-band and Ku-band, using the resiliency of one and the greater bandwidth of the other as conditions change.
Earlier this year, Harris CapRock completed installing gear on 33 ships belonging to Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises. It will also integrate an ambitious new satellite system from O3b Networks, starting with the Oasis and Allure of the Seas.  O3b is launching satellites that orbit about 8,000 miles above the Earth, rather than the 23,000-mile distance of existing, geostationary satellites.  That cuts the back-and-forth signal speed to the satellites from 720 milliseconds to 130 milliseconds. “It will dramatically increase the amount of bandwidth available, to kind of unheard-of rates,” Simonian said. “The only ships that get rates like this would be Navy aircraft carriers, just for comparison.” O3b has launched four of its eight-satellites constellation and should be ready to serve the Oasis and Allure next spring, Simonian said.
But the O3b concept has some limitations and is unproven, said Chris Quilty, who covers satellite companies for the Raymond, James & Associates brokerage. “Royal Caribbean has made a huge, very expensive bet on a category-killer solution for the cruise industry,” Quilty said.

One limit is that coverage doesn’t extended beyond latitudes up to 45 degrees north and south of the equator, which excludes cruise areas such as the Baltic Sea and Alaska. Also, O3b’s satellites aren’t fixed in geosynchronous position like higher-orbiting satellites, so they have to be tracked.  “One is coming up over the horizon as the other is going down,” Quilty said. The tracking system that’s required, he said, “is much more complex. I would say it’s a high-risk, high reward proposition.” MTN Communications is offering a different solution, one that seamlessly switches satellite signals from satellites to land-based networks when ships approach or are in ports. When that happens, existing satellite bandwidth is freed up for use by cruise ships farther out at sea. “Adding more satellite bandwidth will no longer solve the ‘constantly connected’ demand,” said Errol Olivier, president and CEO of MTN. “And, way too often, adding more bandwidth just raises the costs for cruise operators.”
As cruise lines roll out MTN’s hybrid system and other solutions, such as the one offered by Harris CapRock, the retail cost of Internet service, which is currently 50 cents to 75 cents per minute, should come down, even as performance improves. How much prices will drop and speeds will increase is up to the cruise lines, Simonian said, adding, “That information is proprietary. They [the cruise lines] want to protect that.” MTN once held upward of 90% of the cruise industry communications market, and it still serves Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Pullmantur, Windstar Cruises and others. Still, Harris in recent months has gained a big foothold by landing the two biggest companies in the industry as customers. Brad Grady, an analyst at Northern Sky Research, said that because Harris is a big, public company with a broad client base ranging from the U.S. Navy to the global oil and gas industry, it can use its scale to reduce prices.  “There is always a bigger fish willing to do more at a better price,” he said. “And for larger end-users, specialization does not necessarily beat price.” Quilty said that except for the U.S. government, Harris is the largest consumer of satellite capacity in the world.  “By definition it is an economy-of-scale business, so you can generally buy capacity at a lower price,” he said.

Original source:  Travel Weekly Magazine

Surfer Beware!

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Have you ever had that feeling that you forgot something?  Maybe it was on that to-do list you left behind…or maybe it was from leaving home in such a hurry that you just aren’t sure that you closed the garage door. Remember the scene from the classic movie Home Alone, when Kevin’s parents realize that they left him behind in the rush to make their family flight to Paris?  We’ve all had moments like that and it ain’t pretty.  Sometimes is an irrational thought process…but sometimes, like Kevin, something very important gets left behind.

If you are a traveler, you have many important things to remember.  One thing that can easily be cast aside as an innocent act is to go into the business center of a hotel or a public internet café to check emails, pay bills, stalk facebook or see what your stocks are doing.  Well….Surfer Beware!!!

Do not…I repeat DO NOT walk away from any shared computers without logging off. If you just close your window or browser, you never know who is lurking around the corner, ready to belly up to that computer to have a look around the last user’s mailbox for log-in credentials and other sensitive information.

There are other ways travelers may unwittingly put their online security at risk while using shared hotel or internet café computers, and getting a virus in more ways than one is just the beginning. A business center computer that you have no administrative rights over can easily have spyware that records your information as you surf the web and type. That means malware can easily snap screen-shots and record your usernames and passwords.

We leave boxes checked to ‘remember me’ on this computer, which results in a cookie installed that keeps your log-in information going. Beyond spyware and malware, there’s nothing from stopping a criminal from plugging an external keycatcher into the public machine that will later be retrieved with all of your and every other business traveler’s information on it. The biggest online security risk is our own stupidity because we are in a hurry or just clueless.

So, what is the smartest alternative to this at-risk scenario? It’s simple; just follow any one of these simple pieces of advice:

-Use your own mobile device for whatever internet usage you need that would require passwords, social security numbers, or any kind of personal information

-Use a removable flash-drive

– Look at overviews rather than specifics (check out the stock market, but don’t visit your e-trade accounts),

-Get your ducks in a row before you go: Pay your bills in advance (or set up autopay)… wait until you get home to make that purchase on ebay, amazon, or ticketmaster… have copies of your important travel documents (your flight itinerary, hotel confirmation) stored with you in a safe place…. call your credit card companies if you are traveling internationally to alert them of possible charges and avoid potential fraud alerts being implemented.

-If you must use a public computer for personal means, remember Mister Miyagi: “wax on, wax off”….log in, log off!