Meru rigs Crystal Cruises ships with intelligent Wi-Fi

As you might imagine, it's important for cruise ship passengers to get access to Wi-Fi while at sea, but the metal of the ships' hulls and surrounding water make for especially challenging environments.  

Enter Meru Networks' wireless solution, which doesn't eliminate those physical challenges but has found a way to mitigate their impact. Crystal Cruises chose Meru to provide the Wi-Fi connectivity on its Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity award-winning ships.

Sarosh Vesuna, vice president and general manager of Meru's Enterprise Networking Business, told FierceWirelessTech that metal and liquids represent some of the biggest problems for RF signals. Metal reflects signals and water absorbs them. Meru uses its technology not to get around those issues--it can't change physics--but to take some precautionary measures to create fewer issues related to reflection and absorption, according to Vesuna.

The company replaced both ships' legacy Wi-Fi networks with a pervasive Meru wireless network in order to increase the performance and number of online services offered while at sea.

"On the ships, Internet bandwidth is severely limited compared to on land, because it goes over satellite, so our most common point of dissatisfaction from guests was that they couldn't get on the Wi-Fi," said Boban Dragojlovic, vice president of computer services at Crystal Cruises, in a press release. "Since implementing Meru in 2013, guest complaints have essentially gone away. Meru's Wi-Fi solutions and channel layering technology have transformed the way we manage connectivity for our guests. Not only are we able to manage greater densities of user devices, but we can add access points on the fly if necessary to resolve any interference."

Each Crystal Cruise ship holds about 1,000 passengers and includes a Computer University at Sea, which offers guests a few dozen classes on everything from using a tablet to editing photos and making movies. Additionally, it offers 80 free movies that guests can stream wirelessly to any device, as well as a variety of daily newspapers that can be downloaded while on the ship. It currently offers daily editions of almost 25 newspapers from around the world using an application called PressReader.

One of the cruise ship company's goals when it set out to deploy a Wi-Fi network was making sure it would have the ability to handle streaming movies and voice-over IP calls, Dragojlovic said. "We can do that with Meru. Prior to upgrading, we didn't have much content on the ship at all, but now that we have a pervasive network, we've expanded the things we offer. We now offer movies and newspaper services, and we're looking at other content we can provide in the future to give guests a better onboard experience."

Crystal Cruises installed 250 Meru wireless access points per ship to deliver wireless connectivity even in the harshest environments. Meru's Network Manager provides visibility and control of the network, with site-wide monitoring, end-to-end visibility and powerful control of the wireless deployment.

Meru is also providing Wi-Fi for the Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas ship, which Royal Caribbean touted as a ship with "unprecedented bandwidth" when it rolled it out last year.

Vesuna said that Meru introduced 802.11ac six to nine months before its competitors, and it has more than 70 percent of its volume now moving to the newer technology. It also was the first WLAN vendor to have its Wi-Fi mobility controller certified by the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) for software-defined networking (SDN). ONF Executive Director Dan Pitt also is on Meru's Executive Advisory Board.

For more:
- see the press release

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