Wi-Fi Internet Access at Sea
After reading the following article, I promptly created this site to monitor the new market for delivering Internet service to the maritime trade. Check back for additional news and information regarding this emerging opportunity. Thank you,
Boeing's Connexion goes after seafarers
By Roger Yu, USA TODAY
Connexion by Boeing, the unit of the giant jetmaker that's been selling Internet-in-the-sky to airlines, is targeting a new customer: merchant ships.
Connexion by Boeing brings Internet services to commercial flights.
With financially troubled domestic airlines reluctant to buy its service, Connexion sees the maritime market as its next big opportunity, said Laurette Koellner, Connexion's president, in an interview Tuesday.
About 40,000 merchant ships roam the oceans worldwide, and the maritime market could be as big as $5 billion, she said.
Chicago-based Boeing started its Connexion unit five years ago to market high-speed Internet service to airlines. German carrier Lufthansa became the first airline to offer the service on some flights in 2004. Connexion now has nine airline customers, all foreign.
Koellner says she's optimistic that domestic carriers will eventually buy its services as their financial conditions improve.
In June, Connexion signed its first maritime customer: oil-and-gas transporter Teekay Shipping. The agreement calls for installation of Connexion's satellite-based high-speed Internet service on 50 of Teekay's vessels, with an option for 40 more. Teekay will roll out the service in 2006.
While merchant ships have only a few crewmembers on board, they have a long list of tasks that could benefit from fast Internet connections, including logistics, logging cargo, clearing customs, paying bills and communicating with ground-transportation companies. Also, crewmembers are at sea for weeks, and the service could boost morale, Koellner says.
Cruise ships already offer broadband. Merchant ships have been slower to come around because the need for "always-on" Internet for fewer people didn't outweigh costs, says Dave Kagan, president of Maritime Telecommunications Network, which provides Internet access to cruise and military ships.
But with technology improving, "the timing is right" for shipping companies to consider spending money for broadband Internet, he says. Kagan says his company might eventually compete for merchant marine business. For now, the company is busy with its existing markets.
Connexion will run into competition with London-based Inmarsat, the market leader in the satellite-based distress signal system in large ships, which is branching into Internet service, Kagan says.
Persuading Inmarsat customers to switch could be a challenge, Kagan says: "It's not going to be a slam dunk."
One advantage for Connexion is that it can also offer satellite TV to its customers, a service largely missing in merchant ships, Kagan says.
Shipping company customers will pay Connexion a flat monthly subscription fee on top of costs for installing equipment. Connexion will consider similar arrangements with airlines in the future. Now, Connexion charges airlines for equipment installation and management fees, and splits the revenue collected from passengers.