Deployed Ballarat crew able to video chat with home

Published on LEUT Kane Stuart (author), LSIS Bradley Darvill (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation MANITOU, HMAS Ballarat (F155)

ABML-P Ellen Storie-Gregory (left) and LSCSO Kaitlin Shaw (second left) keep in contact with family and friends via social media from the Junior Sailors' Mess, using HMAS Ballarat's Wi-Fi network. (photo: LSIS Bradley Darvill)
ABML-P Ellen Storie-Gregory (left) and LSCSO Kaitlin Shaw (second left) keep in contact with family and friends via social media from the Junior Sailors' Mess, using HMAS Ballarat's Wi-Fi network.

Ship's Company onboard HMAS Ballarat, deployed on operations to the Middle East, have access to the very best communication with family and friends while they are away.

HMAS Ballarat departed Fleet Base West for Operation MANITOU with the latest Personal Wi-Fi Access (PWA) system fitted to an RAN ship. The system is designed to improve the quality of life for those deployed for extended periods. More than 180 users can connect at any time, with speeds up to eight times faster than the previous Internet Kiosk (IK) system. The Ship’s Company now enjoys the ability to call or video chat when away from home via Voice Over the Internet Protocol (VOIP). 

The installation of PWA has provided Wi-Fi coverage for crew throughout most of the mess decks, rather than being limited to the vicinity of the Junior Sailors café as with the previous system.

Able Seaman Jessica Nielsen agreed that the PWA system is more versatile.

I’ve found that the new Wi-Fi is much better than the Internet Kiosk and you don’t have to wait for other people to disconnect before you can use it,” AB Nielsen said.

In the short period since deploying, Ballarat’s Ship’s Company are finding that they feel less disconnected from home thanks to the PWA system. Personnel have been able to call home regularly, manage their personal business more effectively and maintain a sense of engagement with the wider world; all of which is important to maintaining morale on such a long deployment.

Royal Australian Navy sailor Able Seaman Electronics Technician Nathaniel Mumme (right) and Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Kacey Neindorf (left) assist contractors from EM Solutions during a trial of the Tri-Band SATCOM terminal during the installation of HMAS Ballarat's new Wi-Fi network.

Royal Australian Navy sailor Able Seaman Electronics Technician Nathaniel Mumme (right) and Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Kacey Neindorf (left) assist contractors from EM Solutions during a trial of the Tri-Band SATCOM terminal during the installation of HMAS Ballarat's new Wi-Fi network.

Ballarat has prioritised VOIP applications to ensure regular calls home can be made. Personnel can still access social media, email, stream music and videos and download files to their devices; however, speeds for these applications are slower as a result of the VOIP prioritisation. This is understood by the crew who have enjoyed the ability to engage with family and friends. Lieutenant Omar Alothman has found that PWA has made a big difference back home. 

“The biggest benefit for me has been how involved I can stay with things going on at home.

“PWA has helped me to continue to be more involved with my family, especially helping my children with their homework while they are doing it using the messenger app. 

“I was also able to help my wife choose a birthday gift for my daughter while she was shopping,” LEUT Alothman said.

In an example of the resourcefulness of Navy personnel, the existing Internet Kiosk system has been repurposed as an educational service. The IK system now allows access tertiary education sites with less interruption.

AB Michael Carmellotti is one of several sailors who are using the IK to conduct his studies. 

“PWA and the new repurposed IK system has provided me with the opportunity to further my education whist on deployment. 

“It has already made the thought of such a long deployment less burdening and more of an opportunity to work towards my future career goals,” said AB Carmellotti.

The PWA has proved to be a boon for the crew of Ballarat and is expected to ease the burden of separation from family and friends greatly over the Operation MANITOU deployment.