Starlink Wins Another Cruise Customer for LEO Broadband

File image courtesy Hurtigruten

Published Oct 12, 2022 6:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

Norwegian cruise operator Hurtigruten has jumped on board with fleetwide shipboard installation of SpaceX's Starlink internet service, joining Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Silversea Cruises.

Working with integrator Speedcast, Hurtigruten began testing Starlink LEO broadband on its ships in March - four months before SpaceX announced that Starlink would be available for ships. All Hurtigruten cruise vessels will have the service by October.

“As the world leader in exploration travel, it’s only fitting that we bring the world’s most innovative technologies onboard our ships to further enhance the experience and day-to-day lives for our guests, crew, partners and the communities we visit,” said Hurtigruten Expeditions CEO Asta Lassesen in a statement. 

According to Speedcast, the installation will give Hurtigruten's expedition cruise ships better coverage when they visit high latitudes, where geostationary satellites have limited reach. Speedcast tested out a system for seamless failover from Starlink to other onboard satcom services, ensuring uninterrupted connectivity using traditional backbone service providers. 

Starlink is still in the buildout phase, but it markets an advertised bandwidth of up to 350 mbps per terminal - several times faster than the average home cable installation. Starlink also advertises its lower latency, a function of its satellites' low orbit.

The company's satellite constellation and downlink coverage is growing beyond coastal areas. It will introduce Antarctic coverage for maritime regions by the end of the year, allowing three Hurtigruten vessels to operate in Antarctica with high broadband speeds this coming season. 

“Fleetwide introduction of the new service not only puts us ahead of the rest of the cruise industry, it also puts us ahead of the technology. When Starlink introduces maritime coverage in Antarctica and the Arctic, we will be ready,” said Lassesen.

He also challenged other cruise lines to make internet free for crewmembers, as Hurtigruten plans to do.