Do you have children? An internet addicted spouse? Are you yourself an ‘always-on’ IP-addict? Thinking about a ‘vacation at sea’? Gone are the days of leaving your connected-lifestyle behind. Today, the passenger maritime segment is one of the best-connected satellite-enabled end-users around. With record-breaking throughputs in the news over the last 12 months, the passenger maritime sector continues to provision vessels with higher and higher data rates.
In NSR’s Maritime Satcom Markets, 7th Edition report, passenger vessels are projected to consume upwards of 900 Gbps of satellite bandwidth by 2028 – up from 35 Gbps in 2018. Spread over around 1,000 VSAT vessels today, and 2,400 VSAT vessels by 2028, the Mbps-per-vessel average will see a more than 10x jump over the next ten-years. Driven mostly by the Caribbean and Mediterranean, and especially high provisioning on the largest passenger vessels, solving these highly concentrated, high-bandwidth demand will be a key challenge for the satellite sector.
One solution? Non-GEO HTS. This connectivity will be a key enabling technology in this sector. Today, SES’s MEO-HTS solution provides that connectivity, with a migration towards mPower on the horizon. Beyond that, all of the constellation providers have either formally announced places to target Maritime or will almost certainly include it amongst their ‘most desirable vertical markets’. At over $1B in Retail Revenues for VSAT Connectivity projected by 2028, of which Non-GEO will account for 60%, it’d be silly not to start the conversations now with cruise ship companies.
All of this capacity demand, and revenue potential centers around one key fact – building ‘Awesome Guest Wi-Fi’. Yet, more important than the raw connectivity, is that passenger maritime companies are creating data-centric experiences onboard their vessels. A Miami-Herald article provides a good background for Princess Cruises Ocean Medallion program, and a brief review of MSC, Norwegian’s, and Royal Caribbean’s mobile-tech centered experiences. In summary, onboard technology is becoming the de-factor standard – and that frequently revolves around an assumption that the guest has with them a mobile device. That mobile device will require connectivity, period. While that ‘connectivity’ might end at the onboard Wi-Fi network, most guests and devices will connect to the Internet. Beyond guests, the crew, and the ship itself are all demanding more data – from streaming video/social media, to advanced analytic capabilities for shipboard systems and pushing corporate traffic back to shore-side datacenters.
Unlike the aeronautical markets where airlines are still trying to ‘figure it out’, passenger maritime end-users are racing to refine business models, working with technology vendors, and are largely well beyond the ‘check the box’ Wi-Fi experience. While the technology challenges are different between aeronautical and passenger ships, as is the time guests spend on each vessel or plane one key trend emerges between the two end-users – aeronautical companies are still focused on the technology rather than the overall experience, while passenger end-users are focused on the experience – and pick the right technology to enable that solution. Even, if it means they have to work to help bring that technology to market themselves.
“Building Awesome Guest Wi-Fi” takes a holistic approach, which cannot be completely captured on a technology-focused dashboard. As a key lesson for other verticals looking to improve their satellite connectivity experience – having a good experience sometimes means you have to help build the ecosystem yourself, invest across the value-chain, and build metrics which provide insights on what matters for the entire experience.