Offering quality communications at cruising speed

Cruise and ferry operators depend on their IT providers to enable ever faster and more convenient connectivity for their ships. We hear from a few of the busiest players in this competitive market

Offering quality communications at cruising speed
EMC broke social media records during Norwegian Escape's inauguration
This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

The market has changed from when connectivity was nice to have for emergencies to the present where it’s an absolute must-have for both passengers and crew, says Tim Lajza, maritime general manager, Harris CapRock Communications, which is communications service provider to all Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s ships.

In 2015, the company introduced Harris CapRock One, which Lajza describes as “the industry’s first unified, fully managed satellite, wireless and terrestrial connectivity platform designed to reduce customers’ voice, data and equipment costs.” The intelligent, highly-integrated, end-to-end service transparently switches between various transport media to optimise communications for customers around the globe by selecting the best performance network based on the ship’s position on the globe.

“The barometer is to have the same connectivity performance on the open water as that experienced on land for a reasonable price,” he says. “Maritime connectivity solutions and the associated technologies must be steps ahead of the market demands.”

He adds: “The speed of innovation is forcing return on investment periods to get shorter and shorter. So, it’s essential to choose a technology platform that will be around for years to come, thus future-proofing the investment.”

Brent Horwitz, president of cruise and ferry services for EMC, says that the demand for high-speed connectivity and content continues to expand exponentially. “The new mobile-enabled generation of travellers wants the full range of mobile services at their fingertips. Increasingly, this is a differentiator for passengers shopping for a cruise.”

As the Internet becomes ‘richer’ in content every year, cruise ship operators must continually invest in upgrading the shipboard infrastructure to keep up, says Horwitz. “The bandwidth needs of a typical cruise ship increase by 20-25% per year. Typically, you will need to upgrade the mobile transmitter network at least every two to three years to support the bandwidth requirements throughout the ship.

To keep up with demand, operators need to achieve ever higher levels of redundancy. “Many cruise lines are upgrading their antenna installations, either adding a second antenna, installing new hybrid multi-band antennas or both,” he says. “EMC is currently retrofitting many ships with dual hybrid C/Ku-band antennas with automatic beam switchover capabilities for full redundancy.”

EMC’s products were tested to the limit on the Norwegian Cruise Line newbuild, Norwegian Escape. “The ship’s passengers and crew set a record-breaking social-media milestone during the ship’s inaugural cruise, logging 576,896 Facebook posts, 14,150 tweets and 11,367 Instagram posts for a total of 159 million impressions,” says Horwitz. “This was a 330 percent increase compared to the social media impressions tracked from previous inaugural events.”

Operators today must deliver reliable high-speed connectivity for passengers, says Simon Johnson, president of Carus Ferry and Carus Executive Consulting. “The big global technology advances with the cloud, Internet of Things, mobile and big data are providing both the greatest challenges and the biggest opportunities for passenger shipping operators.”

Johnson adds: “Every operator needs a clearly defined technology strategy – one that is agile and encourages innovation within a clear set of parameters that mirror the operating philosophy of the business.”

Carus recently acquired Quintek Systems and MNC Marine, which Johnson says will allow it to provide clients with new integrated solutions. “Our clients can now rapidly create and deploy new products and increase their level of service while they, at the same time, can reduce the complexity of their operational IT systems.”

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Jacqui Griffiths
By Jacqui Griffiths
Wednesday, April 20, 2016