The world’s largest cruise company has released details of a new industry-first wireless network that promises internet speeds at sea up to 10 times faster than what is currently available.
Miami-based Carnival Corporation announced Tuesday its new WiFi@Sea™, a high-speed “smart hybrid” network that will combine land-based systems and satellite connectivity and promises faster, more reliable internet service for cruise ship passengers at sea.
The WiFi@Sea™ network will integrate a combination of strategically located land-based antennas installed along cruise routes, port WiFi connections, and advanced satellites, forming a network that will allow passengers and crew to connect to email or social media even in the middle of the ocean, Carnival said. For users, the network will seamlessly switch back and forth between connection types based on which option will provide the best user experience, much like a cell phone changing from one data connection to another while moving across a coverage area. Carnival says that the network has been proven to provide internet speeds up to 10 times faster than what is currently offered onboard its cruise ships.
Carnival said the service will launch in North America this quarter with ships in the Caribbean, and will eventually be rolled out to all 101 ships across all nine of its brands. Under the current plan, the expansion will continue with Alaska in summer of 2015 and will extend to the Mediterranean, Baltic, Western European and Asian regions in 2015 and 2016, Carnival said.
“This is a major technology breakthrough designed to enhance the cruise experience for our passengers,” said Ramon Millan, senior vice president and global chief information officer for Carnival Corporation. “Our guests are looking for different experiences when they cruise – some are interested in disconnecting and others are interested in staying in touch with their world back home. For those who want to stay connected while on vacation, our new network will help them do so, whether that means checking email or posting pictures to their social media sites.”
Millan added that the company is hoping the service will help drum up new business, particularly among millennials who are used to being connected 24/7. The new network is not just for guests, either. The service will also help crew keep in touch with family and friends back home, said Millan.
Carnival’s launch of the WiFi@Sea™ network follows Royal Caribbean’s partnership with satellite service provider, O3b Networks, providing broadband speeds onboard Quantum-class ships that will match even fast connections onshore.