Royal Caribbean will offer internet service from SpaceX

The rollout will begin immediately across the three brands the company operates: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises, with installation expected to be complete in early 2023, according to a press release. Royal Caribbean (RLC) said the decision comes after it executed a pilot on one of its ships, ‘Freedom of the Seas’, and “received tremendous positive feedback from guests and crew”.
The company also shared in its announcement on Twitter of a rendering of Starlink terminals, the small dishes needed to establish a connection with SpaceX’s orbiting satellites, lining the railing of one of its cruise decks.

“This will enhance and enable more high-speed activities like video streaming as well as activities like video calling,” Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty said in a statement.

It also marks the first cruise line partnership for SpaceX’s Starlink, following a similar partnership announced with Hawaiian Airlines and a recent announcement that SpaceX will roll out a new service – using satellites that have yet to be launched – to expand T- Mobile’s wireless service in dead zones.
Several on line Comments say that Royal Caribbean’s current internet offerings – what the company has said for years is “Fastest internet at sea” – are already quite fast, however not as fast as most home internet connections. It’s not yet clear exactly how or if the speed or quality of service will change after Royal Caribbean’s introduction of Starlink, but Liberty said in a statement it believes it will be a game-changer.
Agreements such as the one SpaceX signed with Royal Caribbean began to appear after the US Federal Communications Commission cleared SpaceX in July to expand its service to planes, ships, automobiles, motor homes and other mobile vehicles. Previously, SpaceX was only allowed to provide services to individual homes or businesses on the ground.

The company said earlier this year that it has more than 400,000 subscribers worldwide. Residential services cost $110 per month with a one-time hardware cost of $600.

Its maritime commercial service is more expensive at $5,000 per month with a one-time hardware cost of $10,000 for two terminals, according to its website. It is unclear whether this advertised price matches the financial terms of its 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 remote areas of Earth’s orbit – a place called geosynchronous orbit, where objects orbit at the same speed as the Earth spins, allowing a satellite to cover a specific area with connectivity. The problem is that the satellites are so far apart that these services have high latencies, which translates to frustrating latency.

SpaceX’s service is different, relying on thousands of satellites orbiting much closer to Earth that all work in tandem to beam the internet to the ground. Eventually, SpaceX hopes to cover the entire planet in connectivity using up to 30,000 satellites. Nearly 3,000 are already working in orbit.

But Royal Caribbean International relied on a different internet service with satellites orbiting closer to the ground than geosynchronous satellites but still higher than those of SpaceX. The previous deal was with a company called O3b, a competitor to Starlink which started launching its satellites in 2013. (O3b has since been acquired by geosynchronous satellite operator SES.)

“Royal Caribbean International remains one of our customers, and we look forward to continuing to grow and evolve our partnership in the years to come,” SES told CNN Business via email, adding that their contract with Royal Caribbean has never been exclusive and “competition is good because it pushes the industry to develop innovative experiences.”

So far, SpaceX’s service has won over its fans and critics. While many welcomed the expansion of high-speed connectivity, the large number of satellites needed to make the service operational raised concerns about the impact on astronomy and debris in outer space.

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