Revolutionizing Internet Connectivity for Cruise Ships: SES and Starlink

Revolutionizing Internet Connectivity for Cruise Ships: SES and Starlink

In a groundbreaking move, European satellite operator SES has joined forces with SpaceX’s Starlink to offer an innovative combined service to cruise operators. The joint offering, dubbed “SES Cruise mPOWERED + Starlink,” aims to provide high-speed and reliable internet connectivity to cruise ships, whether they are docked in port or sailing far out at sea. This collaboration seeks to address the unmet demand for enhanced connectivity in the cruise industry. SES CEO Ruy Pinto emphasized the mutually beneficial nature of the partnership, highlighting how it leverages the unique strengths of each company’s satellite networks.

Satellite communications companies traditionally operate in three different Earth orbits: GEO (geosynchronous equatorial orbit), MEO (medium Earth orbit), and LEO (low Earth orbit). SES, headquartered in Luxembourg, boasts a fleet of more than 70 satellites in orbit, primarily spread across GEO and MEO. On the other hand, SpaceX’s Starlink network predominantly operates in LEO, with over 5,000 satellites launched to date and a staggering 1.5 million customers as of May. By combining their respective constellations, SES and Starlink aim to create an unparalleled solution that is unparalleled in the market.

Revamping SES’ Growth Strategy

SES is venturing into this transformative collaboration as part of its strategy to diversify and find new avenues for growth beyond its declining satellite video business. The cruise industry falls under SES’ rapidly expanding “mobility” business unit, which generated 139 million euros ($149 million) in revenue in the first half of 2023, marking a 14% year-over-year increase. This partnership with Starlink presents an opportunity for SES to tap into the cruise market’s potential and fuel its growth in this segment significantly.

Disruption and Evolution in the Satellite Communications Market

SpaceX’s Starlink has been a major disruptor in the satellite communications market, prompting significant consolidation among global players. Notably, SES previously attempted to merge with its competitor Intelsat but failed. Starlink initially focused on the consumer market before branching out into various sectors, such as enterprise, mobility, aviation, and now cruises. SpaceX’s rapid development and growth have taken the industry by surprise, and SES acknowledges the speed with which Starlink has evolved as a testament to their innovative approach.

Mutual Trust and Collaboration

The partnership between SES and Starlink is built on a foundation of trust and a shared commitment to customer satisfaction. Both companies understand the value of ensuring the availability of their technologies without unnecessary competition or redundancy. SES CEO Ruy Pinto emphasized the healthy working relationship between the two entities and their common objective to deliver unprecedented internet connectivity solutions to the market.

While the combined SES and Starlink service has sparked interest from several initial cruise customers, the companies have chosen to keep specific details confidential. However, discussions are ongoing, and more customers are expected to join this cutting-edge collaboration. Furthermore, SES and Starlink are also contemplating the exploration of other potential markets that align with the unique capabilities of their combined service. Although Pinto remained tight-lipped about the specific details, he expressed optimism about the possibility of deploying their groundbreaking service in yet another market segment.

The partnership between SES and Starlink holds immense promise and potential for revolutionizing internet connectivity in the cruise industry. By leveraging the complementary strengths of their satellite networks, these industry leaders are poised to unlock unprecedented levels of connectivity for cruise ships, enhancing the onboard experience for passengers and crew alike. This collaboration exemplifies the power of innovation and collaboration to drive change in a rapidly evolving industry and sets the stage for continued growth and expansion into new markets.

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