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WB Group Presents FONET-NAVY

During the press breakfast on August 17, 2023, the Management Board of the WB Group presented the latest projects developed by the company. One of them is the development of a maritime version of the FONET digital communication platform.

As part of a project developed for an undisclosed foreign client, the WB Group undertook the integration and consolidation of multiple ship communications systems into one network. The creators were guided by an idea to build a universal ship communications network based on proven solutions used in the FONET digital communication platform—a platform which has so far been implemented in 2,000 vehicles of the Polish Armed Forces and in over 15,000 vehicles globally.

FONET-NAVY Central Unit

In order to meet the demands imposed by maritime operations, the WB Group’s product had to undergo a number of modifications. Communication systems used on ships are much more complex than those in vehicles. Additionally, a ship can engage in operations for several weeks or months, so the ergonomics of the equipment are crucial for operators. Finally, operating in saline conditions, often in extreme temperatures, means that the equipment on board ships must meet different standards than those installed in vehicles used by ground forces.

According to the conceptual presentation offered by the WB Group, the FONET-NAVY digital communication platform will support ship voice communication, which is based on the radio network inside the ship and on board. Additionally, the system must ensure communication across key operator and combat positions and, more broadly, in conference mode. This arrangement is necessary to handle large crews and extensive structures of ships.

FONET-NAVY Operator’s pulpit / Graphics: Grupa WB

FONET-NAVY, as a backbone communication network, will also provide access to radio communication. The commander can communicate with the radio operator using an intercom or gain direct access to the integrated radio station from another operator station using a portable console. Moreover, during a stay in port, the FONET-NAVY digital exchange can be connected to the local telephone network and enable the crew to communicate via it.

Another functionality that can be integrated with the platform is an alarm system. It can function using appropriate sound signals and voice messages via a radio network.

As a bonus… FONET-NAVY may be used to provide entertainment. The designers assume the possibility of connecting devices owned by seafarers, such as players or phones, and playing music on selected terminals of the platform.

The basic components of FONET-NAVY are the central unit (with 30 sockets) and the operator panel. The central unit is a specialized computer using the Linux operating system. It makes voice calls, integrates electronic equipment and positioning systems, ensures data transmission, and enables the transmission of alarm signals. The device is equipped with interfaces for cooperation with subscriber desks, radio interfaces, and data exchange ports in USB and RS232 standards. The manufacturer offers the possibility of connecting several central units and an appropriate number of operator panels in a star arrangement when a larger network is required. This solution is intended to minimize the amount of necessary cabling and make the entire network modular and scalable.

The operator console has been adapted to marine operating conditions. The reinforced housing integrates a loudspeaker, microphone, and display with keyboard. Individual components are replaceable, which makes it easier to repair the device during a cruise. Instead of aluminum connectors known from the land version of FONET, stainless steel ones were used. This solution is intended to enable the use of devices on an open deck. The console itself provides voice communication and digital data exchange both inside and outside of FONET (via a radio station or a telephone line). Depending on the conditions, it enables communication either using the built-in microphone and loudspeaker or connecting a headset. Thanks to the display and keyboard, the user can manually select a telephone number, enter an IP address or set the radio. An additional three-button keyboard provides access to the alarm mode and volume settings.

As WB Group representatives emphasized during the meeting, such a solution offers the advantage of integrating all of the ship’s communications within one network provided by an experienced manufacturer. Moreover, FONET-NAVY is to be fully compatible with its land-based predecessor and, consequently, can be serviced by existing logistics centers.

FONET-NAVY debuted at the WB Group stand during the MSPO fair on September 5, 2023 in Kielce.


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