SES Providing More Connectivity for the Lady Ships

Valiant Lady

Virgin Voyages and SES Networks recently rolled out a new connectivity system for guests and crew, meaning those onboard will benefit from SES’ medium earth orbit (MEO) satellites combined with Starlink’s low earth orbit (LEO) system and the newly launched SES Cruise mPOWERED + Starlink PRO system.

“More than anything, this allows us to offer more capacity for our sailors and crew,” said Steve Worling, senior director of technology operations at Virgin Voyages. “It has brought a new level to the game.”

Worling said that each ship has been outfitted with 10 Starlink antennas on the roof of an aft deck, and in some cases, capacity is now tripled. Discussion and planning started in the second quarter of 2023.

Gregory Martin, vice president of product management, maritime at SES, said that the Virgin ships would use both MEO and LEO at the same time. With the SES system, it helps the cruise operator navigate the complexity of using and switching traffic between both connections.

“Together it is dynamite,” he noted. “It sets a new bar.”

That bar will be immediately recognized by sailors, as speeds and responsiveness should be faster. All Virgin sailors receive free Wi-Fi aboard and can pay for a premium, upgraded package.

“We have support that optimizes the traffic with our adaptive traffic management; it’s not just about having a huge pipe,” Martin said.

The Virgin team can decide what traffic goes where. Voice calls, such as crew checking in with loved ones, go to the MEO connection.

“It’s guaranteed and prioritized,” Worling added, also noting the package SES brought to the table was cost effective.

“Working in collaboration with the SES team, we look at the traffic needs. If someone is watching Netflix, we point that more to the LEO side because it is low latency and high speed.”

Martin said bandwidth still took active management as customer needs changed, and there was a difference in needs during sea days versus port days.

He said that with multiple connections off the ship, the connectivity picture can get complicated quickly.

With SES, the connections are managed as is the bandwidth.

“We put it all together and make it very competitive, enabling the sailors to be happy and the crew as well. Capacity shouldn’t be an inhibitor to having a great vacation.”

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