NOVEMBER 4, 2014 — So much for getting away from the worries of the world on a cruise. Carnival Corporation & plc (NYSE/LSE: CCL; NYSE: CUK), the world's largest cruise company, has unveiled the cruise industry's first-of-its-kind hybrid wireless network – an enhanced high-speed service to eventually be rolled out to all 101 of its cruise ships on all nine of its brands.
Carnival says the technology innovation is expected to revolutionize how millions of its passengers stay in touch "and generate even greater interest in cruise vacations, especially among the tech-savvy millennial generation."
Carnival Corporation's backbone connectivity network, known as WiFi@Sea, will integrate a combination of strategically located land-based antennas installed along cruise routes, Wi-Fi from a port connection and satellites, forming an innovative network that is a first in the cruise industry on this scale. The "smart hybrid" network is designed to provide passengers and crew with faster and more stable internet access throughout their voyage – a feature that Carnival says is becoming increasingly important to travelers of all ages looking to stay connected and share their experiences through social media.
Once completed, the integrated network will seamlessly switch among its various technology solutions to give passengers the highest available bandwidth capacity and strength of signal. The network will be capable of providing Internet connectivity speeds that can be roughly 10 times faster than those previously offered on Carnival Corporation's ships – ultimately expected to provide passengers with the best possible connectivity in the cruise industry.
Following the initial launch in North America in fourth quarter of this year for ships sailing in the Caribbean – the world's most popular region for cruising – Carnival Corporation is scheduled to rollout the technology globally. Under the current plan, the expansion will continue with Alaska in summer of 2015 and will extend to the Mediterranean, Baltic, Western European and Asian regions in 2015 and 2016. The technology will eventually be available on all nine Carnival brands – AIDA Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line, P&O Cruises UK, P&O Cruises Australia, Princess Cruises and Seabourn.
"This is a major technology breakthrough designed to enhance the cruise experience for our passengers," said Ramon Millan, senior vice president and global chief information officer for Carnival Corporation.
Mr. Millan added, "we believe it will also help us attract new cruisers, especially millennials who have made connectivity and social media an everyday part of their lives."
"Our integrated network is also designed to be highly flexible," said Mr. Millan. "As technology changes, we can change how our network operates. So it is very possible that one of the technologies we are using today in our network may be replaced by a newer, better technology a few months from now."
How the Carnival "Smart Hybrid" WiFi@Sea Network Works
The newly equipped ships will connect to the new wireless network via multiple technologies – port Wi-Fi, long-range Wi-Fi and a fleet of advanced satellite systems over multiple frequency bands. The network will seamlessly switch back and forth between connection types based on which option will provide the best user experience at that time. Much like a cell phone changing from one data connection to another while moving across a coverage area, the toggle between networks will be transparent for travelers and managed behind the scenes by a high-tech system.
Carnival Corporation has been piloting this technology for over a year, and due to positive guest feedback and the overall success of the program, the company is moving on to the next phase of implementation. Pricing will vary by brand upon service rollout.
In looking to the future, this first-of-its kind, hybrid approach to Internet connectivity at sea will allow Carnival Corporation to add new technologies to the network as they become available. Similarly, the scalable model will allow the company to extend the network as it adds new ports of calls and routes to its upcoming ship itineraries.