When choosing your wireless communications for your yacht, you need to consider the full package.  Not only do you want the latest features, and very competitive pricing you want to engage with a company that starts the process at the consulting stage, to inform you of what all your options are.  The process should include design, delivery, installation, optimization, implementation, training and ongoing maintenance, to ensure that you are getting the best support. 

Highland Wireless Services, L.L.C. is a wireless communications carrier headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with offices in Aalsmeer, Holland. Highland Wireless has been in the radio communication business in south Florida since January 2001. To date, they operate the largest private carrier 470-512 MHz UHF trunked network in throughout Florida. 

Joanna Palmer, Editor of Superyacht Technology News spoke to Chip McCulloch, Co-owner and Partner of Highland Wireless.  Chip began his career in wireless communications with Motorola in 1995. As Spectrum Acquisitions Manager for Champion Communications, Chip built 800 MHz Motorola Privacy Plus Systems subsequently sold to Nextel Communications.  Communications are in his blood. 

Q:  Chip, talk to me about the Marine Communication Consulting Division at Highland Wireless. 

The Marine Communications Consulting Division at Highland Wireless was organized to fill a void in the Mega-Yacht industry when it came to on-board communications between the crew.  Yachts coming out of the yards did not have crew communications necessary for the safety and service for the guests and crew.  You see, as the yachts got bigger, the industry did not adapt to the limitations of radio-to-radio communications leaving crew very frustrated with poor radio communications.  We knew how to address and resolve their issues.  

Q:  How has 2020 been for business?  What have your learnings been? 

With a fleet of over 100 yachts as customers, we have constant requests for add-on equipment and accessories, however that is not our primary area of expertise.  Much of our business in this industry are new-builds that have up to a three-year construction time.  We get on the builds in the early stages, designing and installing internal antennas throughout the boat and then close to completion of the vessel when the rest of the hardware, software and handhelds can be selected.  Because of COVID shutdowns, we were not able to travel to Europe as freely to get this work done so we had to rely on local partners that were able to more easily get into the yards. 

The other takeaway from the year is how much we missed going to the shows, particularly Monaco and METS (and The Superyacht Technology Conference in Barcelona).  It is at these shows where we meet the most amount of people in the shortest time – since they are all there. 

Q: Can you please explain your Tiers of Communication Platforms? 

There are three levels of radios and infrastructure that can be utilized on board any yacht. The three factors that will dictate which tier of communications will best suit the ship’s needs are vessel size, budget and functionality requirements. I call the platforms GOOD, BETTER, BEST. 

The GOOD platform involves durable digital handheld radios that talk radio-to-radio the way all radios talked in the past.  This platform works great for ships less than 50m since coverage will not be an issue there are few talk groups needed to operate that size ship. 

The BETTER platform involves a DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) type system like the popular Motorola MotoTrbo system.  Here you have a single repeater with a transmit antenna up the mast and a receive antenna down towards the belly of the ship.  This system also offers you more coverage and functionality than the GOOD platform does and is designed for ships 50m – 70m in length. 

The BEST platform involves a TETRA type system that is the standard format for most public safety in Europe and throughout the world.  TETRA is “open platform” which allows for many different hardware and handheld manufactures to compete in interchangeable devises.  (This isn’t the case with DMR – if you have Hytera repeaters you need Hytera handhelds to utilize all of the radio functionality).  Also, TETRA is made to public safety grade meaning the best quality and durability.  This system is ideal for vessels greater than 70m in length.  

Q: Please can you discuss the SOLAS Marine Fire Team Radios that you offer? 

As of 2014, IMO SOLAS Regulations updated the requirements on Marine Fire Team Radios.  To add a needed element of safety, all yachts since 2018 are required to carry a minimum of two two-way radios that are explosion proof or intrinsically safe for each fire team.  

  • Do the requirements make sense to you?   For the little cost it could be a life saver in an actual fire situation. 
  • What is meant by “intrinsically safe”?  This has different interpretations in different countries.  For most of the world the UL/TIA-4950 certification is sufficient.  ATEX is the European standard for IS, but the limited power requirement that goes with it could limit the exact radio coverage it is trying to provide better safety for fire teams. 
  • When do these requirements need to be met?  All yachts at inspection after July 1, 2018. 
  • Where can a fire crew get these specific radios?  I would recommend any yacht get a couple of quotations and examine what limitation the SOLAS radios may have operating with the rest of the yachts crew communications.  My recommendation is to make sure your SOLAS radios do communicate with the rest of the ship’s radios, but this isn’t a SOLAS requirement. 

Q:  Tell me more about the significance of two-way radios on board a yacht … 

Two-way radios are a great communication option for multiple applications. It is especially true for yachts and other marine applications. Onboard a yacht, staff and passengers can communicate easily and effectively with premium two-way radios. Offering complete coverage on your vessel, two-way radios allow you to communicate with personnel simply and offer exceptional value. Water-proof two-way marine handsets may sound like costly options, but in truth, they provide quality and value for your crew and your vessel. 

Effective, reliable communication onboard your yacht is important, sometimes even critical, and two-radios are up to the task. Not only do they allow for exceptional onboard communication, but also help your staff perform their tasks and duties more effectively. Two-radios provide the advantage of effective communication when handling your guests’ needs and be better prepared in case of emergency to save lives. 

Marine two-way radios provide these benefits for onboard communications: 

  • Loud, clear audio 
  • Hands-free operation 
  • RF performance 
  • Built-in loudspeaker 
  • Wind-noise reduction 
  • All-weather functionality 
  • Portability 
  • Durability 
  • Multiple User Channels 
  • Unlimited listeners 
  • Numerous privacy codes 
  • Clear digital signal 
  • Exceptional range 
  • Full Duplex, Fully Conversational 
  • Quick and easy set up 
  • Quality accessories 
  • No base station required 

Making the selection of the ideal two-way radio for your yacht can be challenging with so many options from which to choose. That is where the expert team at Highland Wireless comes in with the knowledge and experience to outfit your yacht with state-of-the-art handsets designed to effective wireless communication. From waterproof two-way radios to marine base wireless radios, marine signal boost repeaters, earpieces, microphones, and chargers, the team at Highland Wireless has the expertise to ensure you get the best equipment to meet your needs. 

Q: What other products are in your range of marine communication and safety equipment range? 

In addition to two-way radios, Highland Wireless offers a full range of marine communication and safety equipment for your yacht which include Vessel Watch with alarm monitoring, quick command controls, task scheduling, and crew call – even offering designer call buttons spread around the yacht that guests can request immediate service going directly to your two-way radio. 

Vessel Watch is a unique software solution which extends the effectiveness of your two-way radio system. Leveraging the digital radios data function, Vessel Watch offers features to help your crew perform more effectively. The software is customized for each unique yacht and enhances security, safety, hospitality, and management onboard. Vessel Watch can integrate with your yacht’s alarm system to send detailed notifications as directed. In addition, the software allows for the use of quick commands to control onboard devices, lighting, sound, fans, and more directly from your handsets. Task scheduling is also a part of the Vessel Watch programming which is designed to ensure crucial checks and maintenance occur on time and successfully. Crew Call allows you and your guests to transform smartphones and tablets into a virtual Crew Call button to summon crew members as needed. In fact, once a member of your personnel answers the call, confirmation is sent to your guests along with the name of the person responding. 

As Marine Communication Consultants, Highland Wireless provides every aspect of ideal, effective yacht communications customized for your vessel. From the planning stages to installation to support, the Highland Wireless team strives to exceed your expectations. When installing marine communications aboard your yacht the process begins with an initial consultation to access your needs. Next, comes the design and selection phase, followed by delivery and installation. Optimization of your marine communication gear follows and includes training your onboard staff.  

Finally, you can count on the team at Highland Wireless to support you and your communication devices following purchase and installation. 

For more information contact Steve Brendle steve@highlandwireless.com       

and visit the website on www.highlandwireless.com 

For any query feel free to contact us