Cruise & Ferry Review - Spring/Summer 2022

INTERV IEW Building connections Pramod Arora of Wireless Maritime Services tells Elly Yates-Roberts about changes in communications technology, the emergence of 5G and what this means for cruise lines and their passengers Maritime communications have changed significantly over the past 20 years, and with it, so have the opportunities available for offering new services to passengers. “After Wireless Maritime Services (WMS) was founded in 2004, cellular connectivity became widespread very quickly,” says Pramod Arora, president and CEO of the communications technology provider. “Cellular roaming soon became part of every ocean-going vessel and wi-fi came along with it.” According to Arora, this superfast growth was prompted by changing attitudes towards the technology. “In the mid-2000s, mobile connectivity was still in its infancy on cruise ships, and for vacationers it was even seen as a distraction rather than a potential benefit,” he explains. “I remember some cruise lines even promoting the idea of not using devices because it would prevent guests from being able to enjoy their vacation. “It’s a whole different world today; having that connectivity with the outside world is now often a key part of enjoying a vacation. In the last two years, staying connected no matter where you are has become an integral part of daily life. Work from anywhere has become the latest trend, and the lines between work and vacations have become even more blurred than before.” After nearly two years of separation and isolation caused by Covid-19, bringing people back together is the main priority for WMS. “The biggest game-changing trend I’ve witnessed in my nine years in this job is definitely the change from seeing connectivity as ‘nice to have’ to it being essential to the cruise experience,” says Arora. “I don’t think we can imagine being connected at a personal level as anything but an absolute necessity now. That trend has brought about continuous evolution in maritime cellular and wi-fi technologies to enable mobile connectivity with rich applications for cruisers.” And passengers seem to feel the same. “Our passengers are not looking at whether they can connect, but where they can get the most seamless, affordable and best quality connectivity,” says Arora. “That’s where WMS adds the most value to cruise lines, because no other connectivity technology is as easy to use as cellular.” Arora predicts that the emergence of 5G could continue to transform the sector and create whole new experiences for cruise lines and their guests. “Applications that use a lot of data with less lag facilitate a new set of opportunities, such as gaming,” he explains. “The upcoming generation 1 3 2