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Cruise operator rolls out first high-speed internet connection for the open ocean

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Carnival's network is 'ten times faster' than previous boat-bound Wi-Fi

Carnival Cruises / Flickr

Internet operators such as Gogo have made it easier to connect to fast Wi-Fi in the sky, but it's still tricky to get a speedy internet connection when sailing on the open ocean. Enter cruise operator Carnival, and its new hybrid "WiFi@Sea," a new network for passengers aboard cruise ships that aims to offer faster internet service throughout an ocean voyage.

Satellites provide Wi-Fi when the ship's in the open ocean

Carnival hasn't specified exactly how speedy the network connection will be, but it says it's "roughly ten times faster" than that previously offered on its ships. The company will use overlapping methods to provide internet access at every stage of a cruise. While the boat's docked, it will connect to Wi-Fi based on land; further out, long-range Wi-Fi allows internet access up to 40 miles from port. In open waters, satellites do the job, providing a Wi-Fi connection across multiple frequency bands. Carnival says its network will switch back and forth between these options as it travels, and that passengers who connect to the network will be able to see these "transparent" changes.

Ramon Millan, senior vice president for Carnival, said the world's largest cruise operator hoped the new network would pull in new customers, "especially millennials who have made connectivity and social media an everyday part of their lives." The new connection will be rolling out first aboard ships departing for the Caribbean from the United States in the fourth quarter of this year. Carnival says it plans to extend the network to boats operating in its other regions — including the Mediterranean, western Europe, and Asia — in 2015 and 2016. A price for connecting to Carnival's new network has yet to be set.