In other times, it would seem reckless to enter the high seas without a sextant to guide navigation. Today, what worries the passengers of the colossal cruises is to set sail without a reliable connection of high speed that allows them to surf the Internet, use e-mail or upload photos to social networks. Under this premise, the European Satellite Society (SES) has put into orbit a constellation of satellites located at 8,000 kilometers above the orbit of Ecuador that allows offering broadband services to ships and also to airplanes and high-speed trains that they circulate in desert areas.
With the connectivity provided by these satellites, there is a response to the growing demand in the means of transport. The big tourist cruise lines are introducing the Wi-Fi on board as an additional feature and another is doing the same for airlines. Although the vast majority of passengers are forced to activate airplane mode on their devices, more and more airlines offer Wi-Fi (some, even free).
As complex as offering mobile coverage in flight is doing it at sea. Hundreds of kilometers from the coast, the terrestrial antenna signal disappears and the connection goes off. Luxury cruises, freight ships or oil rigs have found in the satellite an efficient instrument to access voice and data connections.
27 million tourists
The European Satellite Society, a power in television distribution (7,709 channels worldwide at the end of 2017, including those of RTVE and Movistar +), has expanded its activity to the data business through the SES Networks division . The satellite is presented as a way to facilitate Internet access to the 27 million tourists who, according to forecasts, will embark on cruises this year.
In hyperconnected society, fiber comes from heaven. The SES O3b satellite constellation orbits at a height four times lower than that of the geostationary (36,000 kilometers), so the latency time is less when it is closer to Earth. Each of the 16 artifacts in the fleet has a lifespan of 10 years. In the first semester of 2019 it is foreseen to launch another four units and by 2021 it is scheduled to put into orbit seven more, which will provide coverage to almost 400 million square kilometers.
Technology has evolved so rapidly that in just five years the capacity of broadband has multiplied by 200. "Now you can make normal use of the data on a cruise. In five years SES has gone from offering two megawatts for a ship with 5,000 people at half a giga, "said the president and CEO of the company, Steve Collar, during the IBC technology fair held in Amsterdam in mid-September. "This is a business especially to provide broadband service to ships and cruises," he added. It can also benefit high-speed trains that circulate in areas where extending terrestrial networks is not very operational, as in deserts. In this case, flat antennas are being developed that are located on the roof of the wagons and have the same performance as a satellite dish, according to SES.
Another advantage is that to carry out the connections, it is not necessary for the signals to pass teleports, but rather that the satellite is connected directly with the corresponding transport means. "O3b's global network is located on the Equator. The satellite dishes move following the satellites. When you leave the coverage area of one, there is another reception antenna that picks up the signal, "explained the SES director. The objective of the company, based in Luxembourg and whose majority shareholder is that country, is that reception antennas are increasingly smaller and provide super-fast and permanent connectivity to broadcast live movies and events, download videos from the Internet or make calls voice. "Tender a submarine cable to connect islands can be a work of years, while the deployment of the O3b network is very fast," says Miguel Pingarrón, director of business development at SES in Spain. This system also reduces the delay, something that can be very useful for executing financial operations or for video game fans.
This type of satellites are smaller and faster than geostationary satellites (weighing about 200 kilos compared to five tons of the latter), provide coverage for about 700 kilometers around, improve the speed of the connection and reduce the latency time of round trip (around 150 milliseconds). "Before, high latency and high prices left customers frustrated," says SES. The company aims to grow through the division of Networks. "Revenues from the video and television area will be stable, but billing for data services will increase," predicts Ferdinand Kayser, CEO of SES Video. Currently, the ratio is two thirds of the income on account of television and one third in data. During the past year, the company entered 2,035 million euros, with an operating margin of 65.1% and an operating profit of 610.6 million. The division of Video division amounted to 1,383 million compared to 646 in the data area.