Advanced Television

Bank: SES, Starlink partnering “makes sense”

September 15, 2023

The commercial agreement between SES and SpaceX’s Starlink to jointly serve the fast-growing cruise market is a major move for both businesses.

SES, using its O3b medium Earth orbiting (MEO) satellites, and SpaceX’s Starlink, both have existing relationships with cruise lines. This new relationship will see SES sell and manage multi-orbit connectivity services into the cruise market. SpaceX’s Starlink would take a cut of the sales. Both companies are supplying broadband connectivity to the Royal Caribbean fleet, for example.

SES will also provide data traffic management software. Both companies expect cruise ships to have multiple connections (ie from LEO and MEO and GEO).

Sami Kassab, equity analyst at investment bank Exane/BNPP, said the agreement is positive for SES “as it puts SES as SpaceX partner rather than its direct competitor at least in the cruise market. Unlike SES, SpaceX has limited distribution capabilities in the B2B market and will soon face competition from Eutelsat/OneWeb.”

Kassab added: “Using SES as a distribution partner makes sense for Starlink. More cooperation in other markets looks possible. We see this as a positive development but note that there is still no launch date for [the SES] mPOWER craft 5 & 6, the key catalyst for the SES share price.”

As for SpaceX’s Starlink it is increasingly moving into the business market, including maritime, airlines and energy customers. Starlink’s VP/commercial sales Jonathan Hofeller, speaking at the Euroconsult World Satellite Business Week said that Starlink is “also seeing that customers look for additional added services such as cybersecurity, install, customer support above and beyond just great, raw, high-speed, low-latency capacity.”

“About a year ago we decided to open up to reseller channels.” He added that Starlink is “looking to our partners to provide that [service] to the end customers.”

The deal with SES ought to be no surprise. It has a similar agreement in place with Speedcast, for example.

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