Over the years, the cruise line industry has experienced a period of continuous evolution in regards to integral communications and information technologies. Many stakeholders are leading this charge, since broadband connectivity is becoming a crucial component whereby many passengers decide which cruise line offers the greatest connection of all. The idea of people going on a family/solo cruise to “escape” from ther routine and other obligations is fast becoming outdated.
Nowadays, passengers, along with crew, are demanding superior levels of connectivity and bandwidth at port, near port, and on board. Major cruise companies are aware of this consumer pattern and have diverted efforts towards a systematic level of collaboration and innovation in the industry. In synergy, satellite communication providers and cruise line operators are working together to capitalise on opportunities based on infrastructure, expertise, passenger experience, and efficiencies offered by partnering.
With more than 25 million global passengers projected to cruise this year, carrying aboard multiple sensor-enabled devices with them, cruise line operators are determined to enable the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) at sea to cure the urgency of costly manned processes and fragmented data management. Yet, its applicability requires a single unification of limitless data systems and a sharing architecture that facilitates end-to-end communications and industry optimisation.
In other words, the confluence of business and technical fashions in the pursuit of interoperability and standardisation of systems builds on incremental connectivity ashore, which is a detour to reach inexpensive and blazing-fast Internet connection for exigent passengers at sea. As an exemplification, it is imperative to observe how three top-tiered cruise line companies – Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Carnival Corporation, and Royal Caribbean Cruises – have announced strategic agreements with key satcom solution providers to respond to the demands of IoT at sea and meet the performance expectations of guests/crew on board.
To meet the growing demand for ship connectivity, EMC (now part of Global Eagle) has entered into a long-term strategic agreement with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings for the provision of high throughput satellite (HTS) links, infotainment, and other terrestrial services. Through major investments in new multi-band antennas that are allocated in multiple strategic angles and Wi-Fi infrastructure, Norwegian Cruise Line has achieved competitive advantage using Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSAT) technology to have rich access to C-, and Ku-band frequencies at sea.
Auxiliary investments in terrestrial broadband networks and web browsing accelerating tools (in this case, EMC’s patented SpeedNet technology) were also implemented in the provision of superior passenger experience and online traffic management. Norwegian Cruise Line has strongly upgraded its Wi-Fi infrastructure to allow not only absolute, ship-to-shore connectivity, but also to develop smart switching technologies that enables passengers/crew to keep browsing using terrestrial links at port, while holding on to satellite links for operational and other core management priorities.
Similar efforts were also led by Carnival Corporation to further enhance guest-onboard experiences through major communication upgrades and innovation. The American-British cruise company signed a five-year contract agreement with Harris CapRock in 2013 to supply fully managed communication services to more than 100 ships across its ten global cruise line brands, using a multi-band VSAT system to enable vessels to power high bandwidth and connectivity under a flat-rate fee for social media usage.
Using the latest generation of iDirect communication technology, via hybrid C- and Ku band solutions, Harris CapRock masters the art of VSAT systems and infrastructure based on global coverage, specialised equipment, secured installation, ongoing maintenance, and, more importantly, 24/7 customer support centers to guarantee proactive monitoring and technical support. By expertise, Harris CapRock is committed to delivering highly improved bandwidth and performance with modern stabilised antennas systems in order to provide new services and infotainment solutions onboard.
Royal Caribbean Cruises has also established a strategic agreement with Harris CapRock to equip new Spacetrack stabilised antennas across its entire fleet, using a combination of Ku- and C-band connectivity. The main objective of the agreement is to provide reliable Internet access in order to attract younger passengers, help retain crew, and streamline operations while at sea. The Melbourne-based communications and IT provider has supplemented performance with the provision of advanced VSAT systems to increase bandwidth, reassigning satellite capacity on demand through a more secure and cost-effective angle.
The collaboration likewise integrates O3b’s medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellite systems for two Royal Caribbean ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, to benefit from unmatched capacity, consistency, and coverage. Technically, MEO satellites, which orbit the earth at an altitude of approximately 8,000 kilometers, enable even higher bandwidth services as well as optimised Internet and broadband connectivity without experiencing the traditional satellite delays (lag). This new platform improves overall communications performance and guest/crew online experience through breaking-record Internet speed and reliable Wi-Fi capacity.
For the most part, the aforementioned cases explain how cruise ship operators contrastingly partner with major satcom providers to cope with their most perilous challenge – the fulfillment of passenger expectations. However, the key takeaway is that new global technologies that comprises cloud, IOT, mobile platforms, satellite, and big data management are helping turn connectivity challenges into sustainable end-to-end solutions for the maritime sector.
More importantly, cruise operators are required to keep prioritising technology strategies that encourage innovations to pursue an integrated, fully-managed satellite, wireless, and terrestrial connectivity platform to remain ahead of the curve. The ideal communication solution should also embrace hybrid systems, smart switching functions to increase performance at any given point during the voyage, and supporting applications to enhance passenger experience onboard.
Valour Consultancy will soon commence work on the second edition of its acclaimed report “The Future of Maritime Connectivity”. If you would like to learn more about how you can influence the scope of this research so that it more closely matches your needs, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.