Navy, Industry Experts Talk Bandwidth Needs for COVID-19 Hospital Ships

Current and former U.S. Navy leaders have cited broadband as one of the key communication and connectivity issues that the service branch must tackle when deploying its vessels for coronavirus response missions, C4ISRnet reported Tuesday.

The Navy deployed its Mercy and Comfort vessels as hospital ships to Los Angeles and New York late last month. According to C4ISRnet’s report, CenturyLink provided connectivity for Mercy while Verizon delivered connection capabilities for Comfort. Forescout Technologies also handles the “Comply to Connect” framework that the Department of Defense created for device security at Mercy.

Dean Hullings, global defense solutions strategist at Forescout, told the publication that the ships’ network of hospital equipment such as X-ray and MRI machines are constantly passing data and are in need of critical protection.

Tom Van Leunen, a spokesman for Military Sealift Command, added that the increasing need for patient connectivity is another major obstacle for the Navy.

“Our hospital ships are designed to support official communication for the ship’s crew and embarked medical community to complete their job,” he said. “Adding a capability for patients to reach loved ones increases the risk of saturating the bandwidth off the ship.”

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