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Pullmantur Exec Explains Cruise Ship Operator’s Need for Satellite

By Mark Holmes | October 31, 2013
Pullmantur Ship Monarc

Photo: Pullmantur

[Via Satellite 10-29-13] Pullmantur Cruises recently signed a new deal with MTN Communications to enhance its onboard suite of connectivity options for passengers and crew along with an expansion of its broadband satellite services. The company, a Royal Caribbean International brand, has been working with MTN for around 11 years. Juan Manuel Caballero Patón, IT and business process director, Grupo Pullmantur, outlined the company’s plans in terms of using satellite technology during an interview with Via Satellite.

“Today Pullmantur is still working with C-band technology and until the moment our investment has been focused in increasing Wi-Fi coverage on board. Today, we are planning to move to Ku-band technology and full Wi-Fi covering, offering to our guests a very good experience around Internet services. We have estimated an investment of $1 million per ship in order to complete this technology transformation in our fleet,” he said.

The company has five ships in total right now and is looking to add one ship both next year and in 2015, plus more in the future. They will all be equipped with satellite-based connectivity; Patón says getting into the mindset of passengers is vital for the company.

“The key point for me is, while satellite technology is important, it is the services around the technology which will be key. Some vendors think we are only focused on technology but this is not true. We want to improve speeds, as well as access to apps like Facebook, for example. People need to think about the services that customers want,” he said.

With passengers demanding connectivity, Patón admits that satellite is more important than ever for the company. “Satellite has become more important in terms of communications. If you look at the way people are using communications, connectivity is a must. Kids are using tablets and smartphones in hotels. People want to stay connected when they travel. They cannot understand not having access to these technologies. It is important for us to give a good experience to our guests. Several years ago, it was seen as a nice thing to have, now it is seen as a necessity,” he said.

Pullmantur will be looking at how best it can use satellite technologies in the future, with a more progressive Ku-band strategy potentially part of its plans. “We are waiting to move to Ku-band. We are not thinking right now about this; we are not looking to change our overall satellite technology on board but we have to start to think about what the best solution for us in the future. I think we might change the technology in three year’s time. C-band is the older technology, so we might move to Ku-band technology, but I am not sure we can replace C-band totally. I think potentially we will have C-band as back up and Ku-band as the main service. This combination could work for us, but I think Ku-band technology combined with Wi-Fi connection near the coast will become a key part of our strategy over the next three years. Our goal is to have a Wi-Fi coverage of 85 percent in all our ships,” Patón said.

The new deal with MTN is as much about services as it is about technology, according to Patón. “Today, MTN is working on a hybrid solution which will enable to our ships to use Wi-Fi connection instead of VSAT when they are close to the coast and use VSAT connection at sea,” he added. “I think it is a really good idea and example where you can see how we complement satellite with other technologies. We need to work on these hybrid solutions – these are the future. We are working with other vendors for DSL and 3G. So, we are looking at other communications technologies to work alongside satellite.”