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Boosting Broadband at Sea

Marine chief officer or captain on deck of vessel or ship watching laptop

Cruise company Royal Caribbean Group has announced that it will use Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Starlink satellite Internet for broadband connections aboard its ships. 

What Is Starlink?

Starlink, operated by billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, uses a constellation of low orbit satellites around the earth (launched by SpaceX rockets) to provide broadband internet. Starlink offers satellite Internet access coverage to most of the planet and is particularly useful for areas where connectivity is unreliable or completely unavailable. 

Starlink says that users of its satellite broadband can expect to see download speeds between 100 Mb/s and 200 Mb/s and latency as low as 20ms in most locations. 

Trial Brought Positive Feedback

Cruise ship guests have faced the challenge of paying for generally poor Internet connections aboard cruise ships. The decision by the Royal Caribbean Group to become the first in the cruise industry to adopt the high-speed, low-latency satellite broadband connectivity comes after a trial onboard Freedom of the Seas received positive feedback from both crew members and guests. 

Begins Immediately

Royal Caribbean has announced that deployment of Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink technology across the fleet will begin immediately, with installation expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2023. The Starlink broadband internet service will be installed on all Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises ships, along with all new vessels for each of the brands. 

Starlink Maritime

Just 2 months ago, SpaceX announced Starlink Maritime, a service which provides oceangoing vessels with up to 350 Mbps download while at sea for a one-time hardware cost of $10,000 and a monthly payment of $5,000. 

Enhanced Cruise Experience

Jason Liberty, president and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Group, said, “This technology will provide game-changing internet connectivity onboard our ships, enhancing the cruise experience for guests and crew alike. In addition, it will improve and enable more high-bandwidth activities like video streaming and activities like video calls. Using Starlink is one more example of our continued focus on innovation and excellence for our guests, our crew, the communities we visit and our shareholders.” 

SpaceX Vice President of Starlink Sales, Jonathan Hofeller, said, “Royal Caribbean Group selecting Starlink to provide high-speed, low-latency internet across their fleet will make their passengers’ getaways even more luxurious.” 

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For cruise companies trying to provide luxury experiences for their customers, one fly in the ointment has long been charging their guests for less-than-luxury patchy and poor Internet connections. This has become more of an issue as cruise companies have tried to use new experiences to attract younger customers, particularly millennials who expect a good Internet connection. For example, Royal Caribbean reportedly spent $120 million updating the Mariner of the Seas cruise ship with a Sky Pad and a bungee trampoline experience that integrates virtual reality. Even the older cruise customers of today are used to technology playing an increasing part in the last 30 years of their lives, and crew members need to use Internet connections as part of their everyday lives and connect with home. Competition in the cruise market, which was hit hard during the pandemic, is fierce and repeat cruise customers, as many are, will likely see the value in this small but significant source of competitive advantage that Royal Caribbean Group has announced. For Elon Musk and Starlink, it’s more good publicity following the donation of Starlink satellite internet terminals to Ukraine.

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