MTN satellite domes

When your satcom service is used by at least 40 of the world’s 100 largest yachts, you know you’re doing something right.

But when you can offer them, and others, flexible terms for always-on Internet access, you’re doing something even better.

That’s the impression I had after meeting with representatives of MTN Satellite Communications at the Yacht & Brokerage Show last week in Miami. MTN recently introduced FlexNet, a service that allows megayachts to ramp up or down bandwith requirements temporarily or even for several weeks, depending on their specific needs at the time.

Scott Horne, an MTN account executive, tells me that FlexNet grew out of direct feedback from owners and crew and the desire to remain comparable to competitors. He gave the examples of a yacht in a yard for maintenance or refit work for several weeks, as well as a yacht (private or charter) that happens to be in the midst of a slow period, where just the captain and crew are onboard. In each case, the browsing and e-mail needs will be far less than when the yacht is actively cruising and entertaining. Conversely, sometimes clients have requested temporary upgrades to higher bandwidths or wanted better coverage for just the period in which they’re cruising the Caribbean or Med (or other Ku-band region). Horne says that FlexNet offers three-, six-, or 12-month contracts for the lower or higher needs, versus the 12-, 24-, or 36-month contracts other VSAT suppliers do.

Even with its desire to be more competitive, MTN still touts its hardware as being lower in cost and, more important, it relying on its own network of Ku-band satellites. Tied to that latter point, FlexNet, and other MTN services, prevent the yacht owner, crew, or guests from losing connectivity when a building or other yacht’s superstructure happens to block the angle at which a signal is being received. It’s thanks to what the company calls its Automatic Beam Switching, which, as the name indicates, is designed to routinely select the next available beam with the highest elevation. (If you’ve ever been in the midst of an e-mail or Web surfing when you’ve lost a signal, you know the annoyance, so imagine the trouble it could cause if the captain or owner were in the midst of a banking transaction.)

FlexNet contracts come with flexible monthly upgrades and reduced below-deck equipment requirements. The service additionally benefits from MTN’s 24/7 customer support, spare parts delivery, and real-time monitoring of system availability.