The Yacht Data Capacity Crisis



In 2009, 300 million apps were downloaded onto mobile devices – that number rose to 5 billion in 2010. Last year ipad sales reached 14.8 million worldwide – a number beaten in just the first three months of this year! What does all this extra downloading, mobile and tablet use mean for yachting? At best, it has already resulted in excruciatingly slow download speeds for many yachts despite their investing into increased VSAT bandwidth. At worst…yachts are suffering complete internet shutdown.

And it is not going to get any better as the demand for data spirals out of control with yacht guests and crew relying more and more on iphones, ipads, Blackberrys and Android smart phones for communication, social networking and entertainment. For many in yacht management, the knee-jerk response has been to invest in increased bandwidth.

At YPI Management we don’t like spending clients' money where we don’t need to. When the captain of our 62-metre MARY-JEAN II told us internet speeds on the yacht were the worst he had ever known on any yacht, I decided to look into the problem withRoger Horner of e3 Systems.

What you are about to read is not only simple but ingenious.

Roger Horner
Group Managing Director
e3 Systems



The biggest challenge facing mobile operators in 2011 is the growth in data traffic – a situation now being termed the “Capacity Crunch”. That congestion has now extended afloat and as Franc said, for many captains and management companies the immediate reaction has been to increase the bandwidth at more monthly cost without having any knowledge of why and what it is being used for. It is an investment that may be needed in the long term but the best immediate solution is traffic optimisation and bandwidth management – making more efficient use out of the bandwidth by knowing what it is being used for.

We use a bandwidth management philosophy best explained by comparing data distribution around a yacht to a water plumbing system.

A yacht is supplied with data through a range of different sized data pipes with different capacities - the VSAT has a big fat delivery pipe, the Fleet Broadband has a smaller pipe, the 3G/HSDPA pipe is smaller and the Wi-Fi varies a lot in size. Some of these pipes are flexible and can expand and contract depending on demand; the data flowing through some is more expensive than others and is not always available.

As a result of these variables, these pipes are all connected to a regulator that allows different supplies to feed the data plumbing system around the yacht depending on what is available and what is needed.

Often, it’s with the data plumbing system where inefficiencies lie. Most yachts are connected up with pipes of the same diameter to every location and these pipes terminate at taps.

The following is a typical scenario that can be easily managed: imagine data is being supplied to the data plumbing system via a regulator and all the taps in the crew mess are open and left on. The owner and yacht charter guests on the upper decks want some data but when they switch on their taps all they get are drips. That’s because all the data they need is running out through the crew mess taps!

One solution is to control pipe diameters so the quantity of data deliverable to certain taps is limited. Likewise the tap can be controlled by allowing it only to be switched on, if at all, if the data is to be used for approved operations. For example, much like providing showers instead of baths, the crew can be limited to use only email rather than Skype.

Controlling who can switch a tap on in the first place is also essential and parallel sets of data plumbing can be created so if one runs dry it doesn’t affect the other. These are called Virtual LANs (VLANs) and parallel sets can be fed with different data supplies from different sources.


We come across many situations where the delivery pipes are operating to full capacity but the owner is having a very slow internet experience or his VoIP calls are breaking up. This is caused by all the data being used in other areas for non-essential operations.

As a matter of course every yacht should improve the efficiency of its data use by understanding where it is being used and implementing bandwidth management before agreeing to any bandwidth upgrades.

The first step to bandwidth management…

The first step is to contract a Communications Integrator to carry out an eAudit of the communication and network systems on board. By working closely with the vessel’s management and talking to the users on board, a network plan can be put together for a fully functioning, high capacity wireless network with traffic prioritised for owner, guests and crew.

Bottlenecks are removed, access and security controlled.

The second step is to conduct a study of the communication connections available and the cruising itinerary of the yacht. Recommendations can then be made as to how the necessary connections can be provided with the data capacity required in all cruising destinations, how to upgrade or supplement the data requirements to suit and how to keep the costs to a minimum. In certain locations, for example, it may be feasible and cheaper to supplement the data requirement by adding a parallel service, such as 3G, rather than a VSAT upgrade.

The essential component for Bandwidth Management is the installation of an eDSC (Data Service Controller). Developed specifically for this requirement, the eDSC is more than just a “regulator”, it also routes data connections to different parallel sets of plumbing, manages who can do what and where and monitors data traffic.

Good communications are essential for owners if they are to get the most out of their yachts as well as attracting charter guests. The services of a communications integrator make an essential and rewarding contribution to better quality yachting today.


Our thanks to Roger Horner of e3 Systems for sharing his knowledge and expertise.

For a case study of how YPI worked with e3 Systems to improve the quality of communications on MARY-JEAN II click here

To find out more about yacht communications and how YPI Management can help maximise the benefit you get from your yacht contact Franc Jansen at YPI Management on +377 99 99 97 97 or email: management@ypigroup.com