Demand for more Polar bandwidth driven by cruise ships

2022-09-12T22:40:50+00:00 September 12th, 2022|Technology|

Research by satcoms supplier Marlink showed that the future evolution of non-geostationary satellite (NGSO) connectivity services will support increasing market demands in the Polar regions.

Marlink has published a report on the current status and future outlook for satellite capacity and connectivity based on vessel activity in the regions. This report can be viewed on ICSI’s website under ‘White Papers’.

It examines vessel demand in the context of the post-pandemic bounce back and includes data and insights from industry experts on how the market will evolve in the medium term.

Its main conclusion is that demand for high-quality data connectivity in the Polar regions is set to increase as specialist and mainstream cruise operators expand sailings to meet growing demand.

This is in contrast to commercial shipping – often cited as having large scale Polar potential, but which is being constrained by geopolitical factors – while government activity is also showing growth.

A post-COVID bounce back in cruise passengers is predicted in Arctic cruising, with forecast data for Norwegian domestic cruise traffic this year predicting an increase when compared to actual numbers in 2019.

In addition, international cruise operators may start sending more conventional ships to the region, as they seek to expand sailing schedules and fill passenger berths.

The trend towards more leisure traffic will see additional growth in bandwidth demand, with large ‘floating village’ cruise ships consuming more Ka-, Ku- and C-band satellite capacity with some also adopting NGSO services once they become available.

Expedition cruise operators with itineraries above 80 deg North will likely pursue a strategy focused on NGSO services with L-band back-up, the report said.

An increase in demand will spur steady growth in Ku- and Ka-band satellite bandwidth demand between 65 and 80 deg North  where large conventional cruise ships are likely to operate and a potential boom in NGSO bandwidth at more extreme latitudes between 80 and 90 deg.

For the first time, this new generation of satellite constellations will provide high throughput bandwidth to expedition and specialist vessels.

The report included an overview of the Polar/Ice Class fleet and its growth prospects, sample AIS data on vessel traffic in Polar regions, cruise port calls inside the Norwegian Arctic Circle, a summary of the available Polar connectivity options and a comparison of the comprehensive ‘network of networks’ offered by Marlink.

“The scale of the Polar connectivity challenge is considerable but so is the opportunity and we think that the situation could change quickly from scarce bandwidth to fresh capacity that will support safer operations and higher frequency of reporting,” said Marlink’s President, Maritime, Tore Morten Olsen.

“A single connectivity system is never going to be a complete solution for our customers’ requirements; all available networks are required to optimise opportunities and meet these fast-changing needs.”