Cruise Ship and Remote Island Internet Access

Some people would probably still say today that they don't need or want Internet access when going on vacation on a cruise ship or to a remote island. But I suppose their number is on a steep decline and cruise ship operators are investing in Wi-Fi Internet access on their ships not only in special areas but in cabins as well. According to this article (in German) the pleasure costs between 25 euros per week for "social media" access to 99 euros for 3 GB of data for a week on a ship of one of the major cruise lines.

The article doesn't mention what kind of backhaul is used but it's likely to be satellite. There's different kinds of technologies and (one of?) the latest and greatest seems to be from O3b, a company about which I wrote a post in 2008. It looks like in the meantime their medium earth orbit satellites (at an altitude of 8.062 km) are up and running and their public list of customers includes a cruise ship operator (though not the one mentioned in the first post linked to above) and remote islands. The specs advertised on their web page is a top speed of a single transponder of 1.6 Gbit/s and round trip times of around 150 ms. Each satellite has many independent transponders that can direct their beam to a specific area which hints at the capacity and user experience that can be achieved even if several hundred people on a ship need access simultaneously. Here's a video that demonstrates how the system works with two antennas that track the satellites.

And a final thought: I wonder if the uplink/downlink ratio on a cruise ship with lots of people posting their pictures and videos to social media websites is significantly different from the "land" average!? So apart from pleasing customers, a cruise line you probably can't get any better advertising than people posting their pictures in real time to Facebook…

2 thoughts on “Cruise Ship and Remote Island Internet Access”

  1. Check out slide #10 of this presentation:

    “Better leverage Social Networking as an advertising channel” is indeed a sales proposition of O3b towards cruise ship operators.

    But with the limited coverage of O3b (each satellite has 10 steerable customer beams each providing 1.6Gbps over a 216MHz carrier in a radial area with a diameter of just 700km) and the prohibitively high costs for groundstations (> $1m) and capacity (150Mbps start at $200k monthly) O3b will remain a bridge technology.

    Northern Sky Research, a leading consultancy firm for the satellite industry stated recently: “LEO-HTS [Low-earth orbit high-throughput satellites like those planned by OneWeb, SpaceX, LeoSat etc.] is coming as well and will likely attack the low latency proposition of O3b, which could diminish O3b’s pie further. LEO-HTS will likely engage in price competition as well, adding complexity to the competitive mix. Additionally, while O3b only covers between 45° north/south latitudes, proposed LEO-HTS systems offer global coverage, another distinct advantage.”

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