By Jackie Wattles, CNN Business
Cruise operator Royal Caribbean is bringing SpaceX’s satellite-based internet service to its cruise ships in what it describes as “the largest public deployment of Starlink’s high-speed internet in the travel industry to date.”
Rollout will begin immediately for all three of the company’s brands: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises, with installation expected to be complete by early 2023, according to a press release. Royal Caribbean said the decision was made after operating a pilot on one of its ships, Freedom of the Seas, and “received tremendous positive feedback from guests and crew.”
The company also shared its Announcement on Twitter a rendering of Starlink terminals, the small dishes required to connect to SpaceX’s orbiting satellites, lining the railing of one of its cruise decks.
“It will enhance and enable high-bandwidth activities like video streaming, as well as activities like video calling,” Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty said in a statement.
This is also SpaceX’s first cruise partnership for Starlink, following a similar partnership announced with Hawaiian Airlines and a recent statement that SpaceX will launch a new service — with satellites yet to be launched — at T- The wireless service from mobile across dead zones.
Multiple online reviews say that Royal Caribbean’s current internet offerings – which the company has dubbed “the fastest internet at sea” for years – are already quite fast, if not as fast as most home internet connections. It’s not yet clear exactly how or if speeds or quality of service will change after Royal Caribbean launches Starlink, but Liberty said in a statement that he believes it will be a “game-changer.”
Deals like the one SpaceX struck with Royal Caribbean are emerging after the U.S. Federal Communications Commission gave SpaceX permission in July to expand its service to planes, ships, cars, RVs, and other mobile vehicles. Previously, SpaceX was only allowed to serve individual households or local businesses.
The company said earlier this year that it has more than 400,000 subscribers around the world. Residential Services is $110 per month with a one-time hardware cost of $600.
Its maritime business service is more expensive at $5,000 per month, according to its website, with a one-time hardware cost of $10,000 for two terminals. It’s not clear if this advertised price aligns with the financial terms of the deal with Royal Caribbean. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Traditionally, airlines and cruise ships have relied on satellites in distant areas of Earth’s orbit — a place known as geosynchronous orbit, where objects orbit at the same speed as the Earth’s rotation, allowing a satellite to cover a specific area with connectivity . The problem is that the satellites are so far away that these services have high latencies, resulting in frustrating lag times.
SpaceX’s service is different, relying on thousands of satellites orbiting much closer to Earth, all working together to beam the internet to the ground. Eventually, SpaceX hopes to bring connectivity to the entire planet with up to 30,000 satellites. Almost 3,000 are already working in orbit.
But Royal Caribbean International has relied on a different internet service, with satellites orbiting closer to the ground than geostationary satellites, but still higher than SpaceX’s. The previous deal was with a company called O3b, a Starlink competitor that began launching its satellites in 2013. (O3b has since been acquired by geostationary satellite operator SES.)
“Royal Caribbean International remains a customer of ours, and we look forward to continuing to grow and develop our partnership in the years to come,” SES told CNN Business via email, adding that their deal with Royal Caribbean was never exclusive and “Competition is good as it drives the industry to create innovative experiences.”
SpaceX’s service has won its fans and critics so far. While many have welcomed the expansion of high-speed connections, the sheer number of satellites required to make the service operational has raised concerns about the impact on astronomy and debris in space.
The CNN Wire
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