Technology

Guide to Communication Equipment Health Checks

3 May 2021By Steve Gorman
iStock/Yuliya Shauerman

Written by

Steve Gorman

Steve Gorman is KVH’s regional sales manager and field service expert for KVH Superyacht Group. Gorman has more than 25 years of experience in marine electronics. www.kvh.com

KVH's Steve Gorman shares his recommendations for performing health checks to help prevent technology issues...

Superyacht crew know it’s not an exaggeration to say that the yacht won’t leave the dock without Internet and TV. An important way to avoid connectivity and entertainment problems is to schedule a health check from the field service and tech support teams for the equipment manufacturer and airtime service provider. This check can be done on a regular, annual basis as part of an ongoing preventive maintenance program or more opportunistically, for example, just prior to an owner coming on board for an extended stay or before an important charter.

Satellite communications and satellite television equipment is sophisticated, but it is also exposed to the harsh maritime environment. The best equipment is designed for the elements, but as with any complex machinery, it shouldn’t be ignored. In addition, TVRO and VSAT systems are on and running 24/7 even at the dock, so there is constant wear and tear. A health check is a good way to help protect the equipment investment, maximize uptime, and make operating costs more predictable. With COVID-19 protocols, the health check can often even be done remotely.

Here are some key points for a health check on communications equipment, whether it’s a satcom antenna, satellite television antenna, or airtime service package:

  • Do a system software check to ensure all software is up to date: Digital equipment works best when it has the latest software.
  • Review history and maintenance logs for the equipment to identify any errors or warnings: If there are recurring issues, the tech team can address and suggest maintenance, repairs, parts, or even system replacements.
  • Check the quality of the signals to test the underlying functionality.
  • Review system configuration to ensure it meets the needs of the yacht, crew, owners, and guests: Some yachts want separate networks or VPN set-ups depending on who will be on board.
  • Determine if the satellite TV system needs a different LNB (or bring an extra on board): it depends on the yacht’s cruising itinerary.
  • Review data usage and learn how to increase efficiency and minimize data use: An airtime service team member can see at a glance where there might be issues that data management tools could address.

In recent years, as connectivity has become truly essential to the yacht, KVH has seen health checks that start as routine examinations but end up being productive conversations about the yacht’s data usage and ways to manage the usage.

Top equipment now comes with built-in controls that can help the captain ensure that everyone aboard has the connectivity they need — and they can also keep a watchful eye on preventing data overages. Often, the captain and crew just need a refresher on how to make the most of the equipment.

This article originally ran in the February 2021 issue of Dockwalk.

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