All Systems Go: IP streaming raises demands for high-speed internet on board

Nov 17, 2018 by Jason Roberston

ETO: All Systems Go: by Jason Robertson

IPTV (television streamed over the internet protocol) and VOD (video on demand) are fast becoming the new norm in homes across the U.S., Europe and emerging markets.

Live IP streaming platforms – such as the NBC Sports Gold app, ESPN live, Fubo TV, BT Sports, SkyGO and Amazon Prime – have enabled us to stream live IPTV without having the need for satellite TV antennas and set-top boxes.

Now more so than ever, live IP streaming is set to be a major distribution platform for broadcasters because of its accessibility, reach and lower costs. A recent example of this is the U.S. Open Tennis 2018, which aired live and exclusively on Amazon Prime.

This lightning-paced development of IPTV services on land, the increasing accessibility of VOD streaming of movies and TV series, and the new and exclusive content being released on Apple TV, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime are all helping to fuel a higher demand for fast internet on board megayachts. And that can be a problem.

While a yacht is underway, VSAT (very small aperture terminal) is still the most reliable means of internet connectivity that is able to provide a guaranteed bandwidth, or internet speed. VSAT bandwidth is expensive, especially at the speeds required for high-definition IP video streaming.

With many cruising yachts remaining in close proximity to land, high-speed cellular services can be, should be and are used. Cellular 4G/LTE is growing exponentially, and cellular 4G/LTE equipment and antennas are a very hot topic at the moment.

Cellular providers are able to offer higher internet speeds at a fraction of VSAT costs. The higher 4G/LTE bandwidth, however, is not guaranteed, and reliability is dependent on location and network congestion at the time.  

ETOs, AV/IT engineers and cellular providers have come up with some neat and elaborate solutions to enable high-speed internet with varying levels of success. The most popular solution is to load two, three or four cellular sim cards into a specially designed cellular 4G/LTE modem, where sim cards are either teamed together to form a specially aggregated connection or the modem sends and receives data across all sim cards in a round-robin approach.

Owners and guests using 4G/LTE connectivity will instantly appreciate the increased response of the internet because 4G/LTE connectivity has a much lower latency than VSAT.

Latency is the time it takes for a packet of data to travel across the internet and back to your device. On average, the latency on a 4G/LTE connection is about 60 milliseconds, while the latency on a VSAT connection is 650 milliseconds.

In new developments, 5G (fifth generation) mobile cellular connectivity is poised to succeed 4G (LTE/WiMax), 3G (UMTS) and 2G (GSM) systems. That means higher data rate, reduced latency, energy saving, cost reduction, higher system capacity and massive device connectivity may be right around the corner. Theoretical 5G speeds are 20Gbit/s, while actual test speeds are 500Mbit/s to 1Gbit/s. By comparison, 4G/LTE networks consistently deliver speeds of 6-12 Mbit/s and peak at 50-100 Mbit/s.

Jason Robertson, director of technical crew placement agency Robertson ETOS (, has more than 17 years of combined AV/IT and ETO experience on board megayachts. Comments are welcome below.