EMC's bundled solutions give cruise lines a one stop shop for phone, Internet and entertainment services, with a big change coming this year with an enhanced version of the company’s innovative Web browsing technology, SpeedNet, and its Internet portal.

EMC made a number of marine-related acquisitions in 2015, including MTN, a long-time provider of communications and content services to the cruise industry.

EMC has brought considerably more scale to the business, including new offices in the Emirates and Singapore to cater to expanding cruise deployment.

A number of new-to-cruise products are also debuting this year, including an enhanced version of SpeedNet, a browser plug-in that gives users the fastest Web browsing experience over satellite.

Solving the Age-Old Problem of Satellite Latency

“Our primary goal is to dramatically improve the user experience. We are really focusing on how long it takes to load a Web page, which sounds simple but is a huge 15-year problem operators have been seeking to solve,” said Brent Horwitz, president, cruise and ferry services, EMC. Enter SpeedNet, which essentially brings the content to where the users are, and then pushes page load times to fiber-like speeds.

In easy terms, EMC’s technology essentially stores the latest versions of popular websites aboard.

“That is one major component of using proprietary tech-nologies that only we have. Our goal is to deliver the fastest browsing experience at sea, mimicking what users have at home and work. The big challenge, and what SpeedNet helps to overcome, is latency, which is delay of the signal going to the satellite and back. We’ve evolved from just transporting content to truly distributing content.”

SpeedNet works with all browsers, and seven cruise lines are planning to launch the service in 2016. Two are already testing it onboard and the results have been great.

“Even if no one has specifically requested ESPN or CNN, for example, we are going to preemptively load those sites in anticipation of demand based on our extensive analytics,” said Horwitz.

Any Mobile Device, Anywhere Onboard

Updating ships on the EMC network is relatively easy, with the company dispatching a technician to a ship to do the installation.

SpeedNet integration will start rolling out early this year, and a new Internet end-user portal is set to follow. The update introduces a number of key improvements, such as screen resizing based on device and better login/logout functionality. “It integrates seamlessly. We can have the portal and SpeedNet loaded in a day,” Horwitz added.

The company’s new portal will include enhanced entertainment options as well, enabling users on any mobile device to stream live TV on the ship.

That will also let cruise lines provide options for live payper-view events to mobile devices.

“Most cruise lines are buying NFL games, but only one or two every Sunday,” said Horwitz, adding that with the new system, other games can be made available to guests as payper-view options – one more quality of experience delivered only through EMC.