Severn Class RNLI Lifeboat By Photographed by Adrian Pingstone (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Severn Class RNLI Lifeboat
KCOM has announced that it has improved the network it delivers to the RNLI across the UK. The challenge for many companies with disparate locations is that there is no single connectivity solution. KCOM has used its experience in delivering services to remote locations in upgrading the existing RNLI wide area network (WAN).

The new WAN connects all 230 of the lifeboat stations around the UK, from Aith in the Shetlands to St Helier in Jersey. The projects found KCOM team members working closely with the volunteers and supporters in the RNLI as each location is brought onto the network. Different technologies have been used to achieve this, but with a single point of management wihin KCOM, the RNLI has not needed to be concerned with too many of the details. This left the charity able to fulfil its primary function of saving lives at sea.

Steve North, the IT Manager at the RNLI commented: “Our aim is to give our station’s staff and volunteers the best service possible. Lifeboat crews and volunteers input the details of lifeboat launches and then upload video footage from their rescues, which can be used for media, training and fundraising. A faster connection helps us to spread the word about the lifesaving work we are doing much more quickly. The RNLI is dedicated to saving lives at sea, and investing in better technology at our lifeboat stations around the coast will help to do this.”

Gary Young, Executive Vice President, Mid-Market and Consumer, KCOM Source
Gary Young, Executive Vice President, Mid-Market and Consumer, KCOM

In fact the latest launches by the RNLI are now constantly updated on their website. KCOM have upgraded the links at Poole HQ, adding resilient links and have no rolled out over 200 private FTTC and DSL connections. Each site has needed to be individually mapped as some locations are remote and some distance from exchanges.

KCOM has also helped by installing managed switches and wireless devices. What seems to be missing from this announcement though is the introduction of an SDN. This may be because the RNLI do not see that sites are likely to vary their requirements much over the coming years.

Working with such a recognised third sector organisation as the RNLI has clearly had an impact on KCOM.  While many company executives comment on how great their company has been in delivering their solution Gary Young, Executive Vice President, Mid-Market and Consumer, KCOM spoke more of the amazing work that he saw the RNLI doing and by inference that KCOM are now helping them with.

He commented: “Speed is vital in all aspects of the RNLI’s work, not just in saving lives but also in raising awareness of the dangers at sea. The Respect the Water campaign has seen unprecedented results in educating the public via its social media channels @RNLI on Twitter and Facebook and being online at all times is now a business imperative. It’s been fascinating working so closely with different areas of the RNLI – ultimately it’s all about people rather than technology. By putting RNLI volunteers first we’ve been able to create a network that’s almost invisible because it works so well.”


The relationship has gone well and the RNLI are continuing the roll out to the lifeboat stations in the Republic of Ireland. That should be completed through Autumn 2016. The challenge that the RNLI had was that with remote locations, the administration overhead and the selection of the best technology to reach those remote locations is not always easy to determine. KCOM have experience in delivering networks with different connectivity challenges. It often uses four basic solutions to deliver connectivity: Leased lines, FTTC, Mobile (either 3G or 4G) and bonded DSL.

It will be interesting to see whether the RNLI look to update their network and are able to take advantage of the SDN technology that KCOM have. It was surprising that this was omitted from the press release. As SDN becomes, or rather is becoming more mature companies should no longer be thinking about merely replacing their data network. They should be considering what other services can be laid on top of it. For example services such as security and traffic shaping. The latter being one that poor network links can be helped by.


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