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Interview: An In-Depth Look at IEC Telecom's OneGate Solution

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By Tom Cox 2019-12-03 13:35:46

Tom Cox from The Maritime Executive spoke with Nabil Ben Soussia from IEC Telecom at the Europort exhibition in Rotterdam last week.

Tell us about IEC’s new OneGate and what you are offering to the maritime market?

IEC Telecom has many years’ experience in satellite communications and extensive experience of the maritime sector. OneGate Marine has been developed over several years, working with key industry partners to produce a product which exceeds expectations. We have utilized our knowledge of the maritime market place and our understanding of what our customers want in order to develop a product which will solve problems, provide new ways of doing business, and anticipate future requirements. 

OneGate is a unique network management platform developed for maritime communications, providing the best services for both corporate needs and crew welfare use. It provides the best connectivity and even offers the possibility to synchronize with phones and computers. OneGate can provide least-cost routing and failover and incorporate access restrictions as needed.

To produce OneGate we have utilized the latest technology and incorporated the virtualization of services, an approach which is already being used on land and is particularly beneficial in the marine environment. 

With the help of the virtual dashboard, IEC Telecom can access the vessel’s onboard system in real time. So any connectivity or system problems can be resolved immediately and directly because our experts are able to see what is actually happening for themselves, rather than relying on those onboard to describe it to them or, worse, the ship’s systems having to limp along until an IT engineer can board the vessel. 

In addition, OneGate enables the streamlining of system upgrades, adaptations and repairs, thereby avoiding complicated logistics. In the past if a vessel owner wanted to change or upgrade part of their system, they would have needed to check where the next port was, order the hardware to be delivered there, then send a technician to that destination to meet the vessel and install or update the system. For a whole fleet this often took the services of an entire logistics department to do that!  

Today, thanks to its virtualization, OneGate virtual machines can be deployed in 20 minutes. 

What challenges does digitalization face?  

One of the biggest barriers to the digitalization of a vessel is the fear that you will remove everything that you control yourself and instead put it in the control of computers which rely on a satellite connection. OneGate gives vessel operators confidence because it is supported by reliable connectivity and robust back-up systems to prevent vital systems from failing and enable remote maintenance and problem solving. It takes away the fear and gives confidence to take the next step towards digitalization and all the benefits that can bring.

Another concern associated with digitalization is cyber security. One of the biggest dangers to ship cyber security is the accidental downloading of a virus by crew members using their own laptop for social purposes. OneGate protects critical operations by isolating the corporate environment from the crew network. 

Another risk factor on board is content sharing between the crew. Usually this feature is achieved through an old PC connected to the local network and sometimes to the internet, which is a major security breach. OneGate eliminates this risk by providing a secure local FTP Server. The exciting thing about this is that it provides crew with a secure place to share content, which avoids the need to use memory sticks etc and thus avoiding virus risks. This is an example of how we are listening to our users’ needs rather than being a prescriptive, IT-led company – we designed this aspect for real-life seafarers! 

Lastly, speaking of challenges, we need to address the topic of traffic prioritization. In the past we have found that, when we received feedback from users that the link had a problem, often that was not really the case. What was actually happening was that the user was just not prioritizing the application that they needed to use and bandwidth was being diverted to less important systems! This type of feedback and experience has guided us when designing OneGate so it can overcome such problems. 

The Voice over IP traffic, for example, will always have the highest priority to guarantee the best voice quality. Next in priority should be the corporate traffic which will be protected against the least prioritized traffic – usually the welfare (personal) use. This way, the end users can take full advantage from the available throughput without compromising their business and critical communications.  

What is your core strength as a service provider? 

Here at IEC Telecom we are renowned for our excellent 24/7 support, and we are pleased that OneGate is helping us to give an even better user experience. We don't just enable an internet connection to the vessel and sit back – we take time to understand what our customers need from their connectivity and we personalize the system to meet those requirements. Therefore, you are paying for what you asked for. 

In addition, OneGate is an agile solution – meaning it is already built to anticipate future needs and updates. It is one of the most exciting pieces of technology I have been involved with and we are proud to be able to bring it to the maritime marketplace.

Thank-you Nabil.

The products and services herein described in this press release are not endorsed by The Maritime Executive.