Q – As an IT Professional, I am rather appalled at the sorry state of internet service as evidenced by recent cruises on MSC, NCL, and Holland America. I was just wondering who provides internet to ships at sea and when is it going to get to the point when I can search the web in a lounge chair by the pool bar?

A – Well you do realize that sensitive communications equipment needs to  stay as far away from sun and water as possible. Be mindful that your Bahama Mama does not tip over onto your keyboard. 

Internet service began showing up on ships in 2000. The leading Satellite provider has been a company called MTM Satellite Communications. That technology is now being eclipsed by Harris Rock Cap, a company whose O3b name stands for “other 3 billion.” O3b technology will provide more broadband aboard ships than the current standards. The ships you sailed were essentially sending data to stationary satellites 23,000 miles above the earth. The packets of information then had to be sent back down  to a ground station and then back up, again, to the satellite. As Travel Weekly recently reported in a cover story on current satellite communication, the current journey when you type in a message on a moving cruise ship is about 100,000 miles from start to finish. 

O3b satellites will be beaming broadband from points directly over the equator which will allow them to reach points from Nova Scotia to Santa Cruz, Argentina. Faster broadband will be available on ships sailing the Mediterranean Sea, as well as virtually all of Africa, Asia and large portions of South America.  The current satellite blank spots seem to be centered in the Baltic region and Alaska. 

Eight of the twelve new satellites being built in France for 03b will be launched out of French Guiana next year. Four more will be launched in 2014. 

Royal Caribbean has announced that the new, higher-speed broadband will make its first appearance on the Oasis of the Seas in June of 2013.