Japan’s MOL & KDDI Plan to Initiate SpaceX Starlink Internet Trials aboard Seagoing Vessels

Japan’s MOL & KDDI Plan to Initiate SpaceX Starlink Internet Trials aboard Seagoing Vessels

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) and KDDI Corporation have embarked on an innovative partnership aimed at revolutionizing maritime communication. The Japanese shipping major, MOL, and telecommunications giant, KDDI, have joined forces to trial SpaceX's groundbreaking satellite broadband service, Starlink, aboard a range of seagoing vessels operated by the MOL Group. This collaborative effort is poised to enhance onboard communication for crew members and passengers while promoting safe navigation.

Commencing from August 2023, the two companies will initiate trial runs of the "Starlink Business" service on a MOL Group-operated cruise ship, several ferries, and a coastal Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) vessel. This endeavor is aimed at addressing the challenge of maintaining robust communication during maritime journeys, especially when signals from distant terrestrial base stations are weak and conventional communication systems falter.

The companies shared that Starlink's technology promises a remarkable communication environment with an impressive maximum download speed of 220 Mbps while the vessels are underway. This development holds tremendous potential for the maritime industry, as it addresses critical aspects of safety and efficient operation. Crew members and passengers will benefit from high-speed internet access, ensuring seamless communication and the ability to remain connected with the outside world during their journeys.

The trials will encompass thorough evaluations from both technical and economic perspectives. MOL Group intends to assess the performance and viability of the system across its diverse fleet of vessels. Depending on the outcomes of these trials and the unique circumstances of each ship, the introduction of the Starlink system is slated for the Autumn of 2023.

In the realm of ocean shipping, real-time communication between ships and shore-based personnel is of paramount importance. To achieve effective safety management and ensure secure navigation, maritime companies need to bridge the communication gap between their seafaring operations and onshore management. SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband services offer a promising solution to this challenge by providing uninterrupted and high-speed ship-to-shore communication, facilitating the seamless exchange of vital systems and operational data.

SpaceX, the pioneering aerospace manufacturer and technology company, operates an expansive constellation of Starlink satellites in Low Earth Orbit. This constellation, consisting of around 4,540 satellites, has already garnered over 1.5 million subscribers globally who benefit from high-speed internet access in even the most remote areas.

As MOL and KDDI embark on this trailblazing partnership, the maritime industry watches with anticipation to witness the potential transformation of communication and navigation at sea. Starlink's role in creating a reliable and high-speed communication bridge between ships and the shore stands to reshape the way maritime operations are conducted and pave the way for safer, more efficient voyages in the future.

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Japan’s MOL & KDDI Plan to Initiate SpaceX Starlink Internet Trials aboard Seagoing Vessels


Featured Image Source: Ships involved in the trial: From top left, the cruise ship Nippon Maru, ferries Sunflower Sapporo and Sunflower Satsuma, and coastal RORO vessel Musashi Maru/ Credit: MOL press release. 


---------This article is partly excerpted from Nikkei Asia.

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