HMCS Regina goes wireless at sea

OS Levi Thompson enjoys surfing the Internet in the Junior Rank’s Mess in HMCS Regina.

OS Levi Thompson enjoys surfing the Internet in the Junior Rank’s Mess in HMCS Regina.

HMCS Regina ~

Today, the need for connectivity to families and friends, or even the ability to check sports scores, news, or download a new movie, book, or music is important to the quality of life for sailors at sea.

The Royal Canadian Navy is committed to improving our sailors’ quality of life, connectivity goes a long way to keeping the navy a top employer.

The navy has been working hard to deliver Wi-Fi to sailors at sea, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. Wi-Fi at sea is currently being installed in HMCS Ottawa for evaluation during their upcoming deployment, and short work periods are being scheduled to install this system in other ships. This project will deliver Wi-Fi systems to messes, connecting sailors with home.

HMCS Regina’s crew had desperately hoped it would be selected and fitted for this new system in time for the 2019 deployment, but these types of projects take a significant amount of time and effort to research and implement a fulsome solution.

So, the warship sailed from Esquimalt last February for a six-and-a-half-month deployment without Wi-Fi installed.

But then someone had an idea. If we can get Satellite TV in the messes, and we can get cable internet at home, why can’t we have cable internet at sea?

The Heads of Departments went to work.

Researching options, risks, costs and developing solutions and mitigations to each hurdle encountered, team REGi-Net plugged away like code breakers at Bletchley Park.

Radiation hazard considerations, check.

Emissions security concerns, check.

Weight and stability, check.

Finances and contracting, check.

Finally, full of optimism, the team made their pitch in a briefing note. REGi-Net was Wi-Fi at sea with minimal added risk, and only the loss of Satellite TV. Most thought this idea would die, but, to their collective surprise, an email came from the coast that said “go”.

With that, companies were consulted, parts ordered, and subscriptions arranged. Eventually a massive crate arrived, and with it a towering crane. Communication Technicians were brought into the project to supervise the installation. Satellite TV was removed, and diligently packed up to ship home for later use. A new shiny satellite dish was plopped in the same location. Sector blanking zones to avoid electronic mutual interference and radiation hazard issues were programmed in. Naval Communicators configured the network, creating firewalls and blocking unscrupulous sites.

The key to it all: use the same cabling as Satellite TV. No need for costly new cables running through watertight zones. We had coaxial cables carrying Satellite TV signals going to each mess, and coaxial cables can carry the Internet well. All we needed was a new satellite dish. Add in a few tweaks, such as web caching, call up a standing offer for Inmarsat data and suddenly there was Netflix in the mess. Skype, FaceTime and streaming sports – all in time for Raptors mania and NHL playoffs. It sure isn’t your home internet connection, but with careful management and rules Regina had what its sailors sought: connectivity.

Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author: The Lookout Newspaper can trace its history back to April 1943 when CFB Esquimalt’s first newspaper was published. Since then, Lookout has grown into the award winning source for Pacific Navy News. Leading the way towards interactive social media reach, we are a community resource newspaper growing a world wide audience.

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