Cruise guests are demanding increasingly fast and more reliable connectivity while sailing at sea
What constitutes a good cruise? For some guests, the answer is the opportunity to relax and nurture their wellbeing onboard a luxurious vessel, whereas others are looking for family-friendly activities, an adventurous expedition, or the ability to work remotely while travelling the world. Every guest has different expectations when it comes to aspects such as food, service, entertainment, interior design, amenities, itineraries and pricing. However, there is one aspect of the modern onboard experience where their expectations are uniform: they all want fast, reliable and uninterrupted connectivity.
“Over the past decade, connectivity has become both a key aspect of any cruise offering and a significant source of onboard revenue,” says Greg Martin, vice president of maritime and cruise products at connectivity solutions provider SES. “And as every cruise executive knows, passengers demand no-hassle, easy-to-use and consistent connectivity – whether it’s to share photographs and videos with friends and family back home, stream movies, keep up with their favourite shows and TV series, play games or securely contact work colleagues.
“Much like they take it for granted that the ship will have oil for the engines or a sufficient stock of food and drink, guests assume this connectivity will be ubiquitous: always on, fast, seamless and secure. And they expect it on every ship at every price point – from the first moment they step onboard.”
However, delivering that connectivity to hundreds – or potentially thousands – of people onboard a cruise ship sailing at sea poses major technical challenges.
“Each cruise ship is like a city at sea, a vibrant consumer economy built on services and technical support – and each of those functions must be self-sufficient in communication,” explains Simon Maher, senior vice president of maritime and cruise sales at SES. “Demand surges can be extreme because passengers expect to run high-data applications like streaming, gaming and video calls, with no deterioration in the service.”
In addition to being of paramount importance when it comes to ensuring a high-quality passenger experience, providing secure and always-on connectivity is also essential for improving the crew’s quality of life, as well as the safe, efficient and cost-effective operation of the vessel. Hence, shipowners must implement a connectivity solution that offers high data throughput, low latency, flexible bandwidth allocation and absolute reliability.
To successfully deliver all those features onboard a ship, providers like SES must push the performance limits of today’s most advanced satellite communication technology.
“SES pioneered the use of non-geostationary orbit satellites 10 years ago and transformed the cruise industry with O3b, so we know how to do this,” says Martin. “Our next-generation medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites unlock a new level of performance for cruise guests. Thanks to its high-throughput and guaranteed low latency, O3b mPOWER is delivering a superior guest experience at sea.”
O3b mPOWER provides scalable bandwidth and coverage for forward and return path, and shipowners can choose services offering speeds of up to 1.5 gigabits per second. These services are backed up by extra capacity from SES’s geostationary satellites when necessary, allowing shipowners to operate their vessels with full confidence that they can always accommodate the connectivity needs of their guests and crew.
“After a decade of successfully operating O3b in its MEO constellation, SES is in a unique position to meet the cruise challenge,” says Martin. “With the start of service for our second-generation MEO system, we will be offering SES Cruise mPOWERED that can meet the guest connectivity experience challenges. The future-proof solution offers guaranteed scalable bandwidth to meet the growing data consumption of passengers and crew.”
Soon, SES will enhance the solution to further elevate performance. “We are working on product improvements that will completely redefine high-performance connectivity in the cruise industry,” says Martin.
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.