When terrorists strike or a hurricane hits, U.K.-based Excelerate helps first responders keep their communications networks open. Put simply, if a system’s backbone jams, a commander can flip a switch to use a new backbone — and transfer it from headquarters to the scene. “The guy on the street, the police officer with his walkie-talkie, he’s completely oblivious that the network he is using has failed,” says David Savage, Excelerate’s group executive chairman. “He’s seamlessly switched over to a completely resilient capability, so the device he’s using operates as usual.”
Now the company is bringing that power to yacht owners and captains. It bought a 94-foot Sunseeker, Excelerate Z, packed it with the company’s tech and showed it off at the Cannes and Monaco boat shows this past fall. This winter, the yacht is docked at the Old Port in Cannes, France, where the company is using feedback from captains and owners to make upgrades. Excelerate is also working toward expanding its service region, possibly into the Caribbean and United States, by year’s end.
The User Interface
The target market, Savage says, is yachts 60 to 140 feet length overall, where he believes Excelerate offers the kind of VSAT access and more that superyachts enjoy, but at less cost. He figures that if his company can keep communications up and running from a mobile command center in a relative war zone — at a price that municipal police and fire services can afford — then Excelerate can do the same for smaller-yacht owners off the coast of pretty much anywhere.
“There has to be some changes in the industry to make broadband by satellite the norm,” he says. “My objective is to make it so that broadband by satellite is as normal on yachts as electricity. The pricing will never be as low as electricity, but we can get it down.”
The company’s existing interface is designed for laymen (a good cop, like a yacht captain, is not necessarily an IT expert), so Savage believes it can be tweaked for midrange yacht owners and captains too.
“This interface brings together all of the technologies that we provide — which would improve communications, CCTV, satcom and more — and either makes it really easy for a normal human being to use or makes it completely automated,” he says.
So far, six yachts from about 100 to 160 feet length overall, including Sunseekers and Benettis, have installed the Excelerate system, he says. So have dozens of trawlers and workboats in the North and Irish seas.
Pricing plans can reflect actual usage as opposed to flat monthly fees. Yacht owners pay only for the access they use, instead of a flat monthly fee for maximum capacity at all times.
“Small yachts, in a million years, are not going to be able to afford vast amounts of bandwidth, so we’ve got to provide bespoke packages,” Savage says. “There are times when they don’t want to use it much, there are times when they don’t want to use it at all, and there are times when they want to use it a lot.”
The Excelerate Z is expected to be in the Med again this spring. Ocean Independence helped Excelerate buy the yacht, and the companies are looking for other synergies to benefit yacht owners.
“We are going to surprise them,” Savage says, “about how cost-effective satellite broadband can be.”
Sunseeker’s Blush: One Happy Customer
The 155-foot Sunseeker Blush launched in 2014. One year later, the yacht switched its VSAT equipment, internet services and technical support to Excelerate. Blush‘s captain calls the support “flawless,” and Blush is now one of three Sunseekers whose captains gave Excelerate testimonials for marketing purposes. Aboard the 155-foot Sunseeker Princess AVK, Capt. Julian Sincock says the company was able to “dramatically increase our broadband speeds at much lower cost.” The service, he says, proved especially valuable during the summer, when lots of yachts needing broadband access can jam networks. “I’ve just had my first charter season ever without a single complaint from our guests about their internet and TV experience anywhere we have cruised,” Sincock says.