Four of the top five major cruise companies have contracted satellite owner SES to provide ship connectivity from an upgraded constellation
This development comes as the cruise shipping sector is starting to recover from an industrywide slump brought about by the global coronavirus pandemic.
SES did not name the cruise ship operators that have signed up to using its satellite VSAT coverage, but did say it had built up a backlog of contracts of more than €220M (US$267M) for communications via SES’s new O3b mPower medium Earth orbit (MEO) constellation and SES Networks’ VSAT services.
These agreements will enable enhanced connectivity experiences for passengers on board current fleets and newbuilds awaiting delivery. This reflects a major trend across the cruise industry to provide high quality connectivity to guests as they prepare to resume sailing.
O3b mPower is a second generation of MEO satellites that SES intends to commission in the next two years. It will augment existing MEO coverage from SES’s first fleet of O3b satellites, which operate 8,000 km away from Earth.
SES said the new system “provides an unprecedented increase in flexibility and throughput, and is capable of continuously delivering multiple gigabits per second (Gbps) to a single ship anywhere on Earth during seasonal peaks and in areas of high density”.
However, MEO satellites are stationed over the Equator, so their coverage is strongest in the tropics and does not extend into the highest latitudes.
O3b mPower is set to be launched from Q4 2021 and begin service in 2022. It will have higher power than existing O3b satellites and advanced technical features, enabling individual beams to follow a cruise ship, maintaining the highest throughput available wherever a ship is voyaging.
SES also provides satellite communications through its geostationary and MEO constellation and has the biggest share of cruise ship connectivity. Dating back to 2019, SES has provided over 13 Gbps, representing two-thirds of the total capacity delivered to the cruise industry.
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