RNLI: Network Upgrade Will Help Us Save More Lives At Sea

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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KCOM is upgrading RNLI’s WAN to help it better serve volunteers, save lives and attract more support

The Royal National Lifeboat Association (RNLI) is upgrading the network infrastructure that connects all of its 237 lifeboat stations across the UK and Ireland, claiming better, faster communications will further enhance its ability to save lives at sea.

The RNLI operates a 24-hour search and rescue service in the waters surrounding the British Isles and is reliant on public donations and volunteers who make up 95 percent of the charity – including 4,700 lifeboat crew and 3,000 shore crew volunteers.

As well as making it easier to save lives, it is hoped the improved infrastructure will help the organisation attract more donations and support as it will be able to share more information about its activities.

RNLI network

RNLI College“Our aim is to give our station’s staff and volunteers the best service possible,” explained Steve North, IT project manager at the RNLI. “Lifeboat crews and volunteers input the details of lifeboat launches and then upload video footage from their rescues, which can be used for media, training and fundraising.

“A faster connection helps us to spread the word about the lifesaving work we are doing much more quickly. The RNLI is dedicated to saving lives at sea, and investing in better technology at our lifeboat stations around the coast will help to do this.”

The upgrade to the Wide Area Network (WAN) is being carried out by Hull-based KCOM, which has installed two large bandwidth connections to RNLI’s headquarters in Poole and private DLS and fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) connections to lifeboat stations.

KCOM says many of the stations are located in some of the most remote parts of the British coast and that it oversaw the installation of hardware such as switches and wireless devices.

Read More: Is KCOM Giving Hull The Best Broadband It Can?

Speed is vital

“Speed is vital in all aspects of the RNLI’s work, not just in saving lives but also in raising awareness of the dangers at sea,” said Gary Young, executive vide president of mid-market and consumer at KCOM. “The Respect the Water campaign has seen unprecedented results in educating the public via its social media channels @RNLI on Twitter and Facebook and being online at all times is now a business imperative.

“By putting RNLI volunteers first we’ve been able to create a network that’s almost invisible because it works so well.”

KCOM recently brought all of its consumer and business businesses under a single brand having sold its national infrastructure outside of Hull and East Yorkshire to CityFibre for £90 million in December.

The company is investing £30 million in its ‘Lighstream’ superfast broadband network to extend the service to a further 91,000 homes and businesses in Hull and East Yorkshire over the next 20 months, bringing the total number of premises covered to 148,000 by December 2017. Lightstream offers speeds of up to 1.5Gbps on its fibre to the premise (FTTP) network.

However as BT and Virgin Media do not offer telephone or broadband services in Hull due to KCOM’s historic advantage in the city, the company’s dominance has naturally led to competition fears. A recent study found Hull had the slowest broadband of any major UK city, possibly because of the decision to use fibre to the premise (FTTP) rather than FTTC.

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