From embracing new technologies like Starlink to enhancing cybersecurity through innovations like CommBox Edge Services, KVH is at the forefront of driving efficiency and reliability in maritime communications. With a focus on partnership, innovation, and customer-centricity, KVH is poised to shape the future of maritime connectivity and support the digital transformation of the industry. David Tropp Hag, the Head of Sales for Commercial Maritime in the EMEA Region at KVH Industries, offers insights into the company's latest projects, competitive landscape, technological innovations, and future plans.

What are the latest projects/agreements of KVH Industries?
We are constantly deploying new VSAT and Starlink terminals to new and existing customers. Currently, we are very excited to work with all our VSAT customers to optimize their solutions for the latest available services such as Starlink and CommBox Edge. We have also signed an agreement with EutelSat OneWeb and are excited to bring these next-gen LEO connectivity services to our customers. Among the new customers in the region, we are currently busy with around 20 vessels from operators Al Mutawa Marine Works, Glow Oil and Naif Marine Services in cooperation with our local partner Star-Link Spatial Communications.

How do you evaluate the presence of new players in the global maritime communication market? What about competitions?
At KVH, we welcome new players to the maritime communications market, and as a system integrator, we will look for ways to work together with those that can bring new benefits to customers. 

Competition is as hot as ever in the satellite communications market, which benefits the customer. All our competitors are incredibly skilled at what they do and can all fulfil most customer requirements. 

So the differentiator becomes how well do you deliver your service, how much can you minimize errors/mistakes, and how good are you at assisting the customer in achieving their goals. As a fan of English football, I sometimes think of the competitive situation as the premier league; all teams are good and can beat each other on their good days. It is when teams have a bad day and don’t deliver their best that they are beaten. And those that cannot keep a consistently high-performance level will not win in the end.

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We heard about “CommBox Edge Services”, KVH Industries’ latest innovation. How does this technology help ship operators in dealing with internet connection onboard?
When dealing with shipping IT, there are three fundamental challenges facing most IT departments: How do we support and allocate bandwidth for the many applications needed by the business with often small IT teams? How do we manage the onboard vessel IT infrastructure from remote? And how do we secure the integrity of the network from cyberthreats. Of course, we can add budget control to that list, but that is nothing new. 

Our recently launched CommBox Edge device and service is an advanced communication gateway that addresses all these concerns and more: Through an intuitive interface we provide a single fleet view at the available carriers and onboard networks, and allow detailed control of bandwidth allocation down to the application level per VLAN or per carrier. This means IT teams can configure priorities and allocations to ensure that everything runs to the business satisfaction. 

Our advanced remote access feature provides IT teams with the ability to access, or grant access to a single IP onboard the vessel from anywhere in the world with a single click, so that both they, and possibly manufacturers servicing equipment onboard, can access only the needed IP enabled devices in a controlled and secure way. Cybersecurity remains a hot topic, and our CommBox Edge offers several elements that will enhance a vessel's defence: Deep packet inspection, traffic policy enforcement, network separation, content filtering down to device level, VPN and many other features.
Of course, the basic criterium of budget control is also addressed both by the device and service itself being economical and easy to implement, but also by providing great tools to manage data access and quota for crew and avoid unexpected overages.

All in all, CommBox Edge is a great tool for shipping companies to manage all aspects of their connectivity and support IT operations onboard their fleet.

The maritime industry is undergoing a rapid transformation, especially with the LEO and GEO Networks, how is KVH dealing with the hybrid connectivity?
Hybrid connectivity is not a new thing to KVH or our customers. When we acquired Virtek Communications in 2010, it was to integrate their CommBox technology into our services. CommBox was the leading device for least cost routing at the time, and in many cases, it orchestrated 3-4 different carriers for failover and cost optimization purposes. Typically, a mixture of VSAT, Inmarsat, Iridium and/or Cellular carriers.

The thing that has really changed in the approach to hybrid connectivity, with the introduction of Starlink and OneWeb LEO services, is the higher bandwidth and lower latency now being available, and of course the costs have decreased a lot. 

Where we used to route primarily for availability and lowest cost, we are now routing for highest bandwidth or lowest latency, or in more advanced setups we route over several connections simultaneously depending on time sensitivity of the data. We can even bond several carriers into even higher bandwidth carriers when needed. 

Are there any plans for KVH Industries in the Middle East region?
Yes, we are planning to grow our already substantial business in the region through continued partnerships. Today, we are well-represented in the Middle East regional through four well-established local maritime service companies. 

By working with our partners, we can reach a much larger customer group, and provide service to many more vessels than would be the case if we were present directly. The Middle East is also one of our premier regions for onboard support and field service, and again, by having strong partners, we gain access to a large group of trained technicians who can help us assist our customers when needed without delay. 

What is the vision of KVH Industries for the coming future?
We expect to continue to expand our portfolio of IT services and connectivity solutions, building on what we are offering today. With the workload on shipping IT departments continuing to grow, we see an opportunity to offer fully managed services that can relieve some of that load, without taking control away. In the best relationships we become an extension of the customer's IT department and work together with them on developing both KVH and the customer's solutions for joint benefit.

Robban Assafina, Issue 90, Mar./ April 2024, Maritime Host, pg. 75


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Issue 90 of Robban Assafina

(Mar./April 2024)


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