European satellite operator SES has teamed up with SpaceX’s Starlink to offer a combined internet service to cruise operators. The partnership, called “SES Cruise mPOWERED + Starlink,” aims to provide high-speed and reliable internet access to cruise ships, whether they are in port or out at sea. By joining forces, both companies believe they can meet the unmet demands of certain cruise customers. This collaboration is seen as a win-win solution that combines the strengths of their respective satellite networks.
Satellite communications companies typically operate in three different types of orbits: GEO (geosynchronous equatorial orbit), MEO (medium Earth orbit), and LEO (low Earth orbit). Luxembourg-based SES has over 70 satellites in orbit, split between GEO and MEO, while SpaceX’s Starlink flies all its satellites in LEO. The partnership between SES and Starlink expands their coverage and capabilities by leveraging their combined reach and capacity in these different orbits.
SES’ Growth Strategy
SES, whose traditional satellite video business has been declining, is actively seeking growth opportunities in other markets. The company’s “mobility” business, which includes the cruise market, is one of its fastest-growing segments. In the first half of 2023, the mobility business brought in €139 million ($149 million) in revenue, a 14% year-over-year increase. By partnering with Starlink, SES is expanding its multi-orbit approach and staying competitive in the satellite communications market.
SpaceX’s Starlink has disrupted the satellite communications market with its innovative approach. With over 5,000 satellites launched and more than 1.5 million customers as of May, Starlink has rapidly expanded its presence. Initially focused on the consumer market, Starlink has quickly ventured into other verticals such as enterprise, mobility, and aviation. Last year, it made its entry into the cruise market through a deal with Royal Caribbean Cruises. Starlink’s speed of development and growth has surprised industry players, including SES.
SES CEO Ruy Pinto emphasizes the trust and common desire for customer satisfaction between SES and SpaceX. Pinto acknowledges that Starlink has evolved beyond expectations and praises SpaceX for its rapid progress. The collaboration between the two companies aims to ensure that both technologies are available to customers without unnecessary competition. This partnership is a testament to their commitment to benefit the industry and provide cutting-edge solutions.
SES and Starlink are in discussions with multiple cruise customers for their joint service. However, they have not disclosed specific details. The revenue generated from the service will be shared between the two companies based on the utilization of each service. Additionally, they are exploring other potential markets where their combined service could be a good fit. While there is one specific market segment that cannot be disclosed yet, both SES and Starlink are open to further collaboration in the future.
The partnership between SES and Starlink represents a significant step forward in providing high-speed internet access to cruise ships. By combining their expertise and satellite networks, they aim to meet the demands of cruise customers and offer a unique solution in the market. As satellite technology continues to evolve, collaborations like this will play a vital role in shaping the future of global connectivity.