Somewhere off South America’s coast, tucked below deck in an early 20th-century topsail schooner sailing vessel, is a 21st-century solution to an age-old problem: military morale. The third-largest tall ship in the world and a Royal Spanish training vessel, the Juan Sebastián de Elcano boasts four masts reaching nearly 160 feet in the air, supporting 21 massive sails, and an enterprise-grade accelerated file transfer solution. In a novel merger of sea and sky, the Spanish multinational telecommunications company, Telefónica, deployed Signiant software to improve morale, security, and communication across ships and outposts. The Juan Sebastián de Elcano was just the first of over a dozen vessels on which Signiant embarked.
Elena Andres, head of marketing and business development for Telefónica, noted the challenges the Spanish Ministry of Defence faced leading to this development.
“There were several problems. One was the lack of connectivity in several important locations. The second one was the security issues exacerbated by the lack of connectivity. Additionally, we wanted to improve the wellbeing of the troops and military people that work in those locations, in part by allowing them to consume content as if they were at home,” Andres says.
To achieve these goals, Telefónica needed to find a media file transfer solution that could prove reliable, even when connectivity was less than ideal. They needed something that offered speed, security, flexibility, and reliability under even the most challenging network conditions.
They chose Signiant’s Manager+Agents.
Founded nearly a century ago in Madrid, Telefónica is one of the largest telephone operators and mobile network providers in the world. With over 113,000 employees and 337 million customers spread across Europe, Asia, and the Americas, the company has routinely shaped the modern telecommunications industry and the many other industries it touches.
When Telefónica first reached out to Signiant in order to deploy their solutions for the Spanish Ministry of Defence, they clearly laid out the seriousness of the challenge. The Spanish Ministry of Defence found transferring files, entertainment videos, and other personal communications among naval bases and ships proved problematic. The ministry employed many different technology solutions at various locations, and the inconsistency among tools impacted morale and security alike. Juggling this technology bundle was challenging enough on land but even more so for those at sea. As a result, it was essential to the Ministry of Defence to find a single vendor that could streamline their technology stack. Luckily, Signiant was perfect for the job. Not only did Manager+Agents make it possible to move all the content in question, but — since Manager+Agents — would be one part of a larger technology stack, the power and flexibility of the tool ensured that the Royal Navy wouldn’t once again find itself scrambling to integrate solutions which were antagonistic to each other and their goals.
But there was more to the problem than just a lack of consistency and efficiency. The struggles faced by naval operations were further compounded by understandable problems with connectivity conditions for vessels out of port. If file transfers were dropped between a base and the ships — and they frequently were — that could damage productivity and disrupt important workflows. Even the inability to effectively move personal communications could prove to be a threat to morale and the ability to manage large numbers of personnel working on vessels and on land.
The challenges Spain’s Ministry of Defense was trying to solve were the same as any film, broadcast, or VOD enterprise: how do they move numerous, large, digital assets that are incredibly valuable, with speed and reliability, across long distances, and among multiple parties? In this case, there were challenging network conditions with high-security requirements. Though what was moved may have been personal-growth education (such as language courses) or important personal communiques rather than game builds or television dailies, the end game remained the same — important content reaching its destination in the most efficient way possible Telefónica leveraged Signiant Manager+Agents in a novel application.
“One of the most important issues in this project is trying to manage bandwidth all the time, especially on the ships,” says Jaime Vidal López, Telefónica’s project manager, said. “We have to use a very small bandwidth to share not only the media files but also communications. On top of that, you have all the applications that the staff wants to use, like YouTube, which further takes up bandwidth.”
Starting with land-based installations in countries — the first among them in Koulikoro, Mali — the Ministry of Defence and Telefónica quickly saw the efficacy of Signiant’s Manager+Agents and moved to deploy it on ships — beginning with the Juan Sebastián de Elcano.
“Content is provided by Telefónica — including entertainment like films, series, programs, etc — and the Ministry of Defence,” Andres continued, explaining the workflow. “For VOD content, everything is sent to the Telefonica Data Center, and from there, using Signiant and the network, we send all of this content to each location — whether that be land or sea — so that it can be consumed at each base from the soldiers’ devices, through the new OTT platform we set up as part of this project.”
Signiant’s technology takes those bandwidth challenges and efficiently moves content through narrow pipes and high congestion. For Telefónica and Spain’s Ministry of Defence, Manager+Agents solved those challenges despite the complex security and networking challenges across limited and arduous environments. The proof was in the goal’s primary purpose — provide its military personnel with personal and entertaining content to increase morale.
“The solution is effective, and the final users are very happy. They understand it as an improvement in their well-being. And since it’s used in many different places, [that] make the users happy and the state happy,” López explains.
In part, this is because of Signiant’s monitoring capabilities and the power of the Checkpoint Restart feature. Military locations do not always have the ideal connectivity; that means transfers can be interrupted as connectivity fluctuates based on the ever-widening range of factors affecting vessels. Signiant’s ability to not only quickly report when connectivity is interrupted, but to automatically restart transfers from the point of interruption, saves time and frustrations.
Telefonica has already deployed Signiant at no fewer than 27 locations: 11 land-based and 18 on individual ships.
“We chose Signiant because it’s a very good system,” López emphasizes. “It’s very powerful to be able to get a complete workflow, and Signiant is really easy to understand and use, and to develop those workflows.”
The flexibility of Signiant’s solution also proved to be a boon to the project, considering how much additional infrastructure the new system would involve. “Signiant’s tools are perfectly integrated into the secure network that Telefónica and Hisdesat [Spanish government satellite services operator] have deployed for this project,” Elena Andres adds.
Telefónica’s challenges are exactly what Signiant solves across the global media supply chain every day — media transfers in a challenging network environment. Moving large amounts of high value content between global locations, across a wide variety of storage types and network conditions with speed, reliability, and security is a constant in M&E — no matter the conditions. Land or sea, Signiant software is relied upon to move petabytes of high-value content every day around the world.