TAMPA, Fla. — SpaceX and SES are pooling their broadband satellites to offer cruise operators an integrated service promising up to 3 gigabits per second (Gbps) of capacity per ship.
The SES Cruise mPowered + Starlink service would mostly use SpaceX’s low Earth orbit network (LEO) and satellites in medium Earth orbit (MEO) from SES.
In northern and southern regions away from the poles where there is no service, SES vice president of product management for maritime products Gregory Martin said their joint offering would use its geostationary satellites.
SES would sell and manage the multi-orbit service when it becomes operational later this year and SpaceX would get a cut of the sales, Martin told SpaceNews in an interview.
The Luxembourg-based operator is also providing software to optimize the data traffic, said Martin, who used to manage satellite communications at Royal Caribbean, an SES customer that became the first cruise line to adopt Starlink last year.
He said SES serves five of the top six cruise lines, which are now either using or testing Starlink services.
Starlink and SES can still independently sell standalone connectivity to the cruise market following the deal.
But rather than choosing between SES and Starlink, Martin said he expects cruise operators “are going to have multiple connections off the ship” and “we want to help manage that, be a big part of that, and working together with Starlink … we’re able to provide the best possible service.”
The service comes in two tiers: Pro at 1.5 Gbps per ship and Premium at 3 Gbps.
Martin said there are currently only a handful of cruise ships with anything near 1.5 Gbps, and in many cases the combined offering would enable them to double their throughput at a competitive price.
There are currently no plans to develop a user terminal that could connect to Starlink and SES.
The Pro tier requires 10 Starlink high throughput flat terminals and Premium needs 18, according to Martin, and both tiers would need two to three terminals for SES in MEO.
In a separate interview with SpaceNews, SES CEO Roy Pinto said the operator is open to discussing replicating its partnership with SpaceX in “very selective opportunities, markets or geographies.”