There is 40% satellite coverage where the cruise line operates in Antarctica, explained Grunnan, who challenged long-time connectivity partner Speedcast to ‘do the impossible,’ setting the company a target of less than five minutes downtime per 24 hours daily on all Hurtigruten Expeditions ships. He said, ‘That used to be the impossible, then came Starlink, and overnight we saw that switch to seven minutes downtime, which is a new world for us.
‘Of course, it's not fully stable yet but that is a game changer. We suddenly had services which were stable and performing, and a situation where we can count on availability to the internet.’
Starlink’s broadband connectivity is integrated via Speedcast’s advanced network management technologies, blending the LEO coverage with multiple transmission paths delivered to the fleet as part of a complete managed service. This includes traditional geostationary (GEO) orbit coverage, and 4G/5G for Hurtigruten Expeditions’ high-demand applications.
Speedcast began initial testing and integration on board in March, with the service since rolled out across the fleet.
‘The most important thing is stability,’ noted Grunnan, ‘and the ability to do things we haven't done before.’
The remarks came during the ‘Debunking LEO and Cloud for Maritime Industry’ webinar hosted by Seatrade Maritime.
Smoother correlation with shoreside infrastructure
In the past, Hurtigruten was required to utilise standalone applications and software designed to run in isolation, with data synced ad hoc with landside architecture. Starlink has since enabled the cruise line to move away from nesting commercial-, security- and guest system data locally, using programming that is more cohesive with shoreside infrastructure.
‘We rejected a lot of software because we couldn't run it solely from the ship,’ asserted Grunnan. ‘That's not a limitation anymore.
‘Backup, which in the past needed an approach where we needed to more or less physically dump big data from the ship because the communication was too slow or too unstable… has changed, at least to some degree…’
GEO versus LEO
Grunnan outlined the challenge of passengers switching from internet served by high performing LEO satellites versus GEO coverage, ‘It's human to quickly adapt to the new reality… when you go from LEO to GEO it feels like the internet has broken down… There's this next level of expectation from all parties utilising this service, which heightens the bar when it comes to what kind of services we can deliver.’
In the future, GEO will be comparable with having no internet and considered ‘not good enough’ or ‘more or less not working,’ added Grunnan, describing it as ‘something to think about’ when considering swapping between the different capabilities.