Berthon’s Aruba Mesh Marina Wi-Fi Solution

Date January 28, 2014 Author Comments Leave your thoughts
Marina WiFi at Berthon Boats

Aruba Instant Mesh solution provides seamless WiFi at Lymington Marina.

More than just a marina, Berthon’s prestigious Lymington site offers some of the most advanced boat building, repair and maintenance facilities in the country. A business with a rich history, Berthon has undergone many changes over the course of the last century, including major development of the shipyard and pontoons.

Brian and Dominic May, who took ownership of the marina in 1990, have set a trend for continuous improvement, having made significant investments over the past two decades. Boasting a newly refurbished marina building, which houses the ever-growing sales team, Berthon management began to consider new ways to modernise.

Increased User Expectations

As is commonly the case within the hospitality, leisu

re and travel sectors, high-speed and complimentary Wi-Fi is no longer an occasional luxury and has quickly come to be expected, particularly among younger visitors. Not only would a refreshed Wi-Fi solution add yet another dimension to the Berthon customer experience, but also maintain Lymington’s edge in the highly competitive marina sector.

Keen to address the shortcomings of the existing legacy wireless network, Berthon required a solution which would be consistent with their ethos of quality that is so integral to the way they operate. Nick Hopwood, Marina Manager at Berthon, said: “When setting the parameters of the new Wi-Fi solution, we were mindful that ‘free’ should not be a precursor for poor performance; we wanted to provide the best marina Wi-Fi in the industry.”

Once complete, the Wi-Fi solution would have to provide high-speed access to the many berth holders at the marina, many of whom are successful business owners and professionals. As well as being a complimentary service, it was also a high priority for the wireless network to facilitate remote office work and connectivity, such as video conferencing and instant messaging, without any performance degradation.

The characteristics of marina Wi-Fi, alongside the connectivity demands of Berthon’s high-flying clientele, would require robust levels of coverage as the final solution would need to work seamlessly both above and below the decks of the berthed vessels.

Selecting Ensign

Berthon required a networking partner who could not only carry out the work to the highest of standards, but who could also provide and test a number of designs in order to guarantee the best-possible Wi-Fi solution was achieved. Not only this, having experienced poor performing wireless in the past, Berthon were keen to deploy industry-leading hardware which would withstand both the often harsh outdoor conditions as well as the usage demands of their growing customer base.

With many years of experience within challenging Wi-Fi environments, and with the added advantage of being local to Lymington Marina, Ensign Communications were considered the best fit for the project.

The Solution

Through careful consideration, consultation and planning, and after testing a number of possible designs, Ensign’s team of network architects proposed an Aruba Networks Instant Mesh Solution.  The Aruba Mesh would provide coverage across the entire marina, with 12 Aruba IAP-104 access points strategically placed along the dockside and spread across the five pontoons.

As a high level of network resilience was one of Berthon’s core requirements, the mesh was configured with four points of entry. Positioning the access points in this way would provide a failsafe in the event of any network issues, allowing the mesh to automatically reform and thus eliminating potential downtime and unsatisfactory end-user experiences.

The Aruba IAP-104s feature dual band 802.11n radios, making them the ideal component for the marina mesh solution, as well as eliminating the need for a wireless controller. This cost effective, yet powerful, design would allow Berthon’s end-users to access the network via both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands ensuring robust coverage within the high-density client environment.

Challenges

Among the many challenges facing Ensign’s engineers were the twice-daily tidal swells, which cause the marina’s pontoons to fluctuate in height by as much as 3 meters. The Aruba kit was mounted high upon the pilings of the pontoons, allowing each access point an excellent view of the surrounding craft and ensuring dependable levels of Wi-Fi performance.

The many crafts berthed at the marina come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from smaller 25 ft sailing boats to much larger 70 ft cruisers, and are also constructed from an array of, potentially RF resistant, materials. In order to provision for all boat designs, Ensign’s engineers extensively tested the wireless signal penetration through those with fibreglass, steel, and even concrete hulls.

Lastly, taking into consideration the often harsh weather conditions and constant exposure to salt water spray, it was imperative that the access points and mounting gear were weather resistant. Each IAP-104 access point was mounted within a protective IP65 rated enclosure and heavily galvanised mounts were used to secure them.

Post-Deployment

Since ‘going-live’ with the marina Wi-Fi solution, employees at the Berthon Marina have experienced a great deal of positive feedback from their end-users, who are now able to walk seamlessly between access points with no loss of Wi-Fi service.

Although originally built with business owners and virtual private networking (VPN) in mind, the network has undergone something of an evolution to predominantly serve more leisure-driven pursuits. The networks’ high speeds and capacity allows Berthon’s customers to efficiently stream and download content from the Internet; a clear sign of the solution’s performance.

From an administrative perspective, the Aruba Mesh network has revolutionised the way in which the network is managed. Having opted for the hosted Aruba Airwave network management platform, Berthon are able to conveniently monitor the performance and health of their network on-site. The hosted Aruba Airwave software allows visibility into who exactly is accessing the Berthon network using nothing more than a standard web browser, where they are accessing it, the type of device they are using, and even the amount of bandwidth.

“Having this degree of visibility allows me an insight into the types of traffic we are getting and what times they are accessing our network”, explained Nick Hopwood.

Our users are split into two groups, visitors and berth holders, so employing the Aruba Airwave management suite allows me to allocate portions of airtime effectively.”

Aside from the benefits of added visibility, the Aruba Airwave solution also hands Berthon crucial insight into the wellbeing of the wireless mesh solution. Alerting on-site administrators to any issues affecting performance, the management tool is helping Berthon to achieve unprecedented levels of network uptime.

Future Plans

Happy with the results of the deployment, Nick Hopwood said: “With regards to any future plans, the Ensign solution is currently meeting all of Berthon’s requirements.

“Our users are happy with the service and we at Berthon have been impressed with the level of coverage to berth holders and visitors. We are seeing an increase in returning customers, which is perhaps the greatest indication that the Wi-Fi solution is performing beyond what was expected at its inception.”

More Information – To find out more about Ensign’s Marina Wi-Fi solutions, call us on 01929 556 553 or email info@ensign-net.co.uk. 

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Author Gregg Meade

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