PHOTO: Internet connectivity is still a crucial topic in the cruise industry. (photo courtesy of Thinkstock)
There was a mix of historic disappointment and abundant hope among cruise network providers at this year’s Seatrade Cruise Global convention.
A panel discussion included four such companies as well as a representative from Carnival Corporation.
“Now it’s basically 2017, [and we’re] expected to have decent connectivity. I think the cruise market is still behind. Just in general, every cruise line is behind in providing that level of service,” admitted Gregory Martin, VP, Mobility Market Segment Management, O3b Networks Ltd.
However, O3b is helping make great improvements to onboard internet thanks to supporting Royal Caribbean International’s VOOM connection.
Reza Rasoulian, Vice President, Global Guest Connectivity, Carnival Cruise Line, himself recalls how five years ago it would take 10 minutes to login to one’s email, up to another 10 to get to the inbox and then five more to download and print. He said you could get it done, but it was costly (priced per minute) and slow.
Now, Carnival is moving away from time-based plans towards voyage-length alternatives.
Of course, it’s new technologies and infrastructures that are making this possible. ITC Global, part of Panasonic Corporation of North America, for one, is working on extreme-throughput satellite systems with a gigabit per ship at better price points to come online around 2019 and 2020.
Tennyson LaJeunesse, owner of RedCell Technologies, sees a need for 10-gigabit networks to grow to 40 to support 4K and eventually 8K video. In fact, he says millennials—29 percent of which do not subscribe to pay television but rather streaming—are pushing the infrastructure towards pervasive wireless connectivity.
READ MORE: New Ideas Upgrade Cruise Ship Internet
LaJeunesse remarks how it’s interesting that infrastructure is not generally considered a part of the guest experience, but guests may rate it poorly based on an inability to, say, post to social media.
He reassured, “As we talk about these new technologies of low orbit satellites, your latency problems are going to go away, meaning that it’s realistic for people to stream content.”
The end goal is not only about improving connection speeds for guests, however, but the entire cruise.
Rasoulian mentioned Carnival’s new Ocean Medallion technology saying, “Our perspective is to make it a fantastic experience. We create fantastic experiences today amongst our ten brands, but with this platform we feel that we’ll be able to understand the guests’ needs in a much more proactive and predictive way and effectively be able to surprise and delight our guests.”
He also added that Ocean Medallion will include an element of sharing the guest experience and values of the cruise industry, which he claims the corporation’s CEO Arnold Donald is keen to do in order to boost market share.
Technical challenges still exist, however. According to LaJeunesse, pool areas are particularly problematic due to the large quantity of devices saturating limited access points.
Joe Spytek, CEO, ITC Global, also quipped, “You essentially just have a big floating Faraday cage here,” when discussing the density of Wi-Fi, LTE, 4G and potentially 5G frequencies.
Plus, Martin briefly discussed the difficulties of maintaining a consistent fleet within a single cruise line. He explained how new-builds set fresh standards that eventually rollback to existing ships, but it takes quite a lot time and resources to bring them up to speed.
Still, that doesn’t stop Rasoulian from challenging network companies to provide “frictionless connectivity” and a “better than home-like guest experience” onboard in the future.
Meanwhile, Martin anticipates there will be more in the way of cloud computing and additional endpoints such as wearables during the years to come.
This post first appeared on TravelPulse.