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Spotlight: Cruise Ship Initiates Unique Phone Service

By | July 19, 2004

      For the first time, cruise ship passengers will be able to use their cellular phone to talk and send text messages while in international waters.

      The Island Escape cruise ship is the first to take advantage of a new communications offering developed by Wireless Maritime Services, a joint venture of AT&T Wireless [AWE] and Maritime Telecommunications Network (MTN). The service combines satellite and wireless services to provide the cruise line industry and its passengers with on-board wireless service.

      In an exclusive interview with Satellite News Senior Editor and Senior Analyst Paul Dykewicz, MTN President and CEO David Kagan said he expected the new service to become widely used by passenger cruise ships around the world. Initial indications after the first two days of offering the service onboard the Island Escape is that demand could top expectations, he added.

      “This service will revolutionize the cruise industry by setting another standard of service,” Kagan said. The initial response to the new capability has been “very encouraging,” he added.

      Discussions are underway with all the major cruise lines about adopting the service, Kagan confirmed.

      “I think this is going to be a very big product for us,” Kagan said.

      MTN’s core product is providing satellite communications onboard ship’s to allow them to operate the networks and conduct their business, Kagan said.

      The latest product rollout requires a “large capital investment,” Kagan said. The cost would reach hundreds of thousands of dollars per ship.

      MTN, majority-owned by private investment firm Falconhead Capital, has the financial support to pursue the project, Kagan said.

      The Island Escape, which accommodates more than 1,700 passengers and a crew and staff of 540 people, sails in the Mediterranean during the summer and serves primarily European passengers. It is only the first of what Kagan expects will become entire fleets of ships from the leading cruise companies to take the service.

      MTN usually strikes deal to allow the cruise ship line to share a portion of the revenues from any of the services that it offers. That kind of partnering has helped MTN rollout out a host of new services in recent years that range from providing onboard Internet cafes, Wi-Fi service and newspaper deliveries to passengers’ doors. -Paul Dykewicz

      (David Kagan, Maritime Telecommunications Network, 954/538-4000)

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