The return to cruising has not only been beneficial for the industry but has also increased companies’ demand for onboard bandwidth. Brent Horwitz, senior vice president and general manager at Speedcast, spoke to Cruise Industry News about the “voracious appetite” for bandwidth and his company’s commitment to remaining a key provider.
Speedcast worked on a series of infrastructure changes during Covid, Horwitz said, and was able to nearly double its provided capacity, by expanding its global network by 13 Gbps in Europe and Alaska just in time for the summer season, for a total of 30 Gbps, in the course of six weeks.
“We expect to add another 12 Gbps of bandwidth when the ships return to the Caribbean beginning in September, in anticipation of the industry returning to full service at 100% occupancy this winter,” he explained.
Even though the cruise industry is still operating at below full capacity and occupancy, Horwitz noted that there’s significant growth in the demand for bandwidth.
“We are seeing at least 33 to 50% year-over-year bandwidth growth across our customer base, which represents all sectors of the cruise industry. We have well surpassed the bandwidth levels we were supplying in 2019,” he said.
Lindblad Expeditions is one of the companies that has returned to cruising, and Speedcast’s Unified Global Platform (UGP) solution has brought the company’s technologies up to a “contemporary standard,” according to Horwitz. Speedcast recently inked a multi-year deal with Lindblad.
“Lindblad invested in a multifold increase in satellite bandwidth and augmented the service with a near-shore 4G services. We also added a new technology solution called SD-WAN, which allows us to seamlessly blend these technologies together, delivering the fastest connectivity experience possible”.
Speedcast is expanding with its newly-announced partnership with a global low earth orbit satellite constellation called OneWeb, in order to become more appealing for sailings in the Arctic and, in the long run, the Antarctic.
“OneWeb will be particularly useful for our expedition clients that operate at very high or low latitudes and sometimes struggle with the low look angles that result from using geostationary satellites that are located above the earth’s equator. OneWeb could also offer an added safety enhancement for ships that operate closer to the poles,” Horwitz added.
Demand keeps growing with 75 new ships coming, but Speedcast has a detailed plan in place to ensure that it continues to provide quality services.
Although Horwitz acknowledges that 100% coverage is “technically unavailable” he believes that by incorporating True Beam, an automated network management technology, Speedcast “should be able to deliver a service that is akin to a literal 100% availability service.”
“We intend to incorporate the three primary satellite frequencies—C-band, Ku-band, and Ka-band—coupled with the three primary satellite orbits—Geostationary, Medium Earth, and Low Earth—to deliver a flexible global satellite network,” he said. “True Beam identifies the best available network given the operational conditions, applications, and bandwidth available and leverages the most appropriate path to provide optimal service.”