Marine Atlantic to Offer Onboard Wi-Fi Pilot Project

by Colin Tibbo, Chief Information Officer

Over the past couple of years, we have been working to improve corporate vessel internet and application connectivity access onboard our vessels travelling between North Sydney and Port aux Basques. As part of this approach, new infrastructure was installed on Bell cellular towers in southwestern Newfoundland and Cape Breton.

Our initial project phases focused on strengthening connectivity to improve corporate functions and allowing work tasks to be done with the same access, functionality and ability as those on shore. This included point of purchase sales such as debit machines, as well as communication activities with our shore-based operations.

Following our evaluation of these initial phases, we are now in a position to launch an onboard public Wi-Fi pilot project. As part of this project, free Wi-Fi will be offered at designated “hot spots” in public areas of our vessels.  This will be the first customer-focused Wi-Fi service offered on board all four of Marine Atlantic’s vessels.

As this is a pilot project, we will be looking to determine where opportunities for improvement exist and where challenges remain. We know there are geographical considerations, including at the furthest points from land, that will continue to impact connectivity strength. The impact of increased customer usage, especially during our busiest crossings in the summer season, will also be evaluated.

To help mitigate against some of these challenges, we will first focus on providing access to basic internet usage. Some streaming sites will be blocked due to the amount of bandwidth required to stream videos. For those wanting to access videos during the crossing, we encourage customers to use download features before boarding the vessel. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the Argentia service from a geographical consideration, Wi-Fi will not be available for the entire crossing.

We look forward to this new pilot project and offering an enhanced Wi-Fi experience for our customers. Following the summer season, we will evaluate the results to determine our successes and challenges, and our future plans to further enhance this service for customers.