Virgin Voyages’ goal has been to remove the connectivity barrier for its sailors when it comes to onboard internet access, said Andy Schwalb, chief information officer.
“What’s clear from consumer research is that customers don’t want to feel disconnected on board,” he said. Cruise Industry News.
Working closely with SES, the new cruise brand was able to take advantage of the provider’s MEO (Medium Earth Orbit) satellites.
“SES has beams that can follow the ship. You end up with 500 to 700 megabits or more of low-latency bandwidth, so the experience on ships is almost as good as at home,” he said, adding that the company was researching available beams. the largest and fastest available.
Under Virgin’s pricing model, all sailors (guests) receive free internet access.
“We are not only removing barriers for sailors but also for our crew. We treat our crew better than anyone in the industry and say ‘stay in touch with your families,'” Schwalb explained.
Among Virgin’s innovations this summer on the Valiant Lady is linking two satellite beams from SES to get more bandwidth.
“We’re testing this new software in their cloud that allows us to tie two beams together to a vessel to get enough capacity,” Schwalb said.
It doesn’t end there, as the company has another trial on the new ship to test a 5G network connection.
By using a new antenna, the idea is to add more capacity or remove traffic from satellite beams and take advantage of local 5G networks near the coast or in port.
“We are the only cruise ship today with a 5G system that has features to offload traffic to it when we are within cell range, which is limited to being offshore or in a port,” Schwalb said. “We are looking at all kinds of things, including Starlink. Although it is not designed to be on a ship, we are soon starting a trial in Europe.
Schwalb added: The demand for network capacity on a cruise ship “will never go in any direction other than up.”
“Other cruise lines charge for it, which automatically limits the number of people who travel there.”
With Virgin it’s free, so everyone’s on it all the time.
“I need the biggest and the best we can get. All the time. We have plans for gigabit connections coming soon, so we’ll take it.
Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Summer 2022