WiFi aboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships is going to get a boost from SpaceX. SpaceX's Starlink Internet service will join the fleet in the coming months, finishing during the cruise season in the first quarter of 2023, the two companies said Tuesday (Aug. 30.) By making lower-cost Starlink terminals accessible quickly to cruise ships suffering from infamously sluggish Internet speeds, SpaceX intends to cut into the earnings of a small cruise-focused business, OneWeb.
Royal Caribbean stated that it is the first cruise line to sign up for Starlink, adding that the agreement will provide "a better onboard experience for guests and crew fleetwide." (Rates were not specified, although one estimate implies that cruise ships would pay $10,000 for initial setup and then $5,000 per month for access, a fraction of usual at-sea Internet costs.) The cruise line is banking that service will improve when SpaceX launches dozens of Starlinks into space several times each month. According to Starlink tracker Jonathan McDowell, there are already almost 3,000 operational Starlinks in orbit.
In early March, a satellite-laden rocket lifted off from the launch site in Russian-controlled Baikonur, Kazakhstan; OneWeb afterward inked an agreement with SpaceX to conduct further launches in the near future. (OneWeb's previous one was in February, two weeks before the February 24 invasion, and the company's hands are full as it considers a merger with Eutelsat.)
OneWeb now has 428 satellites in space, which accounts for two-thirds of its initial constellation. The firm is banking on the French satellite operator Eutelsat to improve satellite service by connecting the low-orbiting OneWeb spacecraft with those operated by Eutelsat in geostationary orbits. Meanwhile, OneWeb and Intelsat announced a partnership to improve aviation Internet connectivity "for airlines worldwide" in an Aug. 11 statement.
The SpaceX mega-constellation is planned to develop at an ambitious size as Starlink increases its at-sea installations. SpaceX already has clearance to launch 12,000 satellites into orbit and has sought for permission to launch an additional 30,000 if an international regulator authorizes it. Elon Musk, the creator and CEO of SpaceX, said last week that the company will collaborate with T-Mobile to offer Starlink connection to cell phones. That service will be provided by Starlink Version 2 satellites, a more powerful fleet set to launch next year.