UK marine communications systems integrator Channel 28 had a record year in 2013 supplying Hytera DMR infrastructure and two-way radios to the global large yacht market. In 2013, it deployed DMR systems on a number of yachts ranging from 52m to 99m.
Adrian Hicks, technical director at Channel 28, told Wireless: ‘We’ve been supplying engineering systems on large yachts for 10 years now. It’s a tricky market in the sense that it is a very specialised one. You have to understand how the boats work, what the crews do and how they do it, so it’s important to work closely with the whole crew to get the best results.
‘A lot of what we do is based on the fact that a many people in the marine world don’t understand their communication systems very well, so we aim to install simple, easy to use integrated solutions,’ said Hicks.
Channel 28’s C-Comm offering provides a complete, unified communications package for a yacht environment, which offers secure communications designed to ensure the yacht captain or engineer does not fall foul of regional radio licensing laws.
‘We supply and integrate the equipment,’ explained Hicks. ‘Generally, we are replacing older analogue equipment or occasionally TETRA with digital mobile radio (DMR) products. The problem with TETRA is that although clients like its functionality, it is only valid in certain regions of the world. In some countries it is illegal to use TETRA frequencies and you can get fined.’
Channel 28 uses DMR UHF standard harmonised frequencies, which have the advantage of being valid all over the world and it also means clients can reuse their existing analogue frequencies and licences. ‘We can programme some extra frequencies beyond the standard marine ones, as sometimes those frequencies can get overwhelmed, so that provides an alternative channel and extra resilience,’ explained Hicks.
Channel 28 offers the complete end-to-end service to determine requirements and to configure and integrate a radio system with other ship-wide control systems. The digital infrastructure offered by C-Comm is scalable from two radios to a complete multi-boat, multi-site system with GPS tracking of tenders, alarm and monitoring and control of third party systems. When a fault or problem is detected, the alarm triggers a text message, which can be directed to appropriate members of the crew only.
Hicks said that a typical installation would comprise a DMR repeater with various filters, antennas and antenna splitters, along with the radios and Channel 28’s own hardware and server interface, which provides the IP-based alarm monitoring, tender tracking and other services. The repeaters can also use the IP-platform to provide a link from the yacht to an owner’s house or office if required.
‘We worked with Hytera early on after they came to the UK and with John Whitcomb [Hytera sales for UK, Ireland & BeNeLux] in particular, who has been very supportive from day one, as have the Hytera engineers,’ said Hicks.
‘Hytera’s DMR platform is a very good one to work with. Hytera has given us the APIs for us to develop our own interfaces and we’ve worked closely with them on that,’ said Hicks, who added that Hytera’s X1e and X1p hand portables have proved very popular. ‘They are IP67 certified and so are very robust, which you need in this environment, as yacht crews will destroy radios if they are not tough enough. They are also compact and stylish, which appeals to this market.’
Hicks revealed that some yacht clients are interested in deploying DMR Tier III trunking solutions, because it will give them access to more channels. ‘Moving to DMR Tier II from analogue gave two simultaneous time slots and more channels. It means you can create talk groups, so the stewards don’t have to hear a communication aimed at the engineers, for example. They also love the person to person calling application, but even that is getting busy, so more channels with DMR Tier III appeals.’
Hicks said that 2013 was a really good year and judging by responses he’s had from a recent marine show, 2014 should also prove a rewarding year too.