In the past, cruise lines bought enough bandwidth to fuel their IT operations for administrative purposes. This was just enough to deliver a reasonably satisfying experience because guests went on a cruise to disconnect. But that has all changed.
Now consumers no longer want to disconnect – they actually need to communicate online while cruising. Cruise passengers today want to share their experiences as they are happening, and stay up-to-date with life back on shore, such as checking news and even work updates. For crew, it is imperative to morale – they are able to have access to the best, most reliable and convenient communications options to stay in touch with loved ones at home.
Over the years, the cruise and ferry markets have struggled to keep pace with the communications demands of corporate IT departments, passengers and crew. To date, the typical solution has been to add more satellite bandwidth. Any service provider can just keep selling more bandwidth to the cruise operator, but the more they add, the more passengers and crew will use, and this becomes a costly, vicious cycle. The solution is to change how operators buy bandwidth, and then how they repackage and sell it to passengers and crew. This delivers a better experience and overall improvements when it comes to operational and business efficiencies.
With MTN, you get an entire communications solution that minimises costs, maximises throughput, and optimises operations. Our advanced MTN Nexus ecosystem delivers communications at sea by providing access via a global hybrid satellite and terrestrial broadband network. MTN Nexus taps our terrestrial broadband network (TBN) to supplement, or sometimes substitute for, satellite connectivity. This provides land-like speeds to guests and crew when they are near or in port. Rather than crew scampering away in port to find good connectivity, we’re able to provide it onboard and improve the way they spend their downtime. Passengers who must check in with work while on a cruise can schedule time to do that while in port. Since launching the TBN on cruise ships in Alaska last year, the company has expanded the number of MTN access points to now cover the East and West Coasts of the US, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and the UK, the highest trafficked cruising areas.
Thanks in part to this new technology, the MTN hybrid network delivers more than 10 terabytes of data each day. The company enabled more than 33 million internet logins last year. We see this as a strong incremental step to improving the overall connectivity experience onboard. In addition to the MTN TBN, MTN Nexus will add to the cruise industry’s already largest, most robust and redundant satellite communications network to incorporate a new, purpose-built high-throughput multi-spot beam (MTN HTMS) satellite. MTN HTMS will launch in 2015, with an enormous amount of bandwidth concentrated in the Caribbean, offering even better economies of scale than today when it comes to satellite bandwidth.
MTN Nexus leverages all this investment in technology infrastructure to connect passengers, crew and operators to a full range of rich content – all on a common platform. Representing a very different way of working with cruise operators, MTN Nexus shifts from a by-the-minute billing model to a by-the-megabyte billing model. This is a fair way for people to pay for the service and sustain their online habits. Instead of trying to prevent people from doing what they want to do, we say let’s just embrace that and enable them to access their fair share of the bandwidth. In addition, this creates an environment that more easily incorporates new services and products for improved communications and access to content. For example, we recently launched MTN OceanPhone Mobile, the first voice calling and messaging app for maritime crew. It leverages the wi-fi infrastructure on vessels, as well as the MTN network, and runs independently of other subscribed services. Among the great features of OceanPhone Mobile is the ability for friends and family to call crew members at very reduced pricing, and for crew to have access to private voicemail and 500 free text messages with each plan purchased. We are excited about the cruise and ferry lines that are delivering a better user experience today. Ultimately this shift leads to higher revenue and profitability and, most importantly, a more spectacular user experience.
Brent Horwitz is senior vice president and general manager, cruise & ferry at MTN Communications.
This article appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2014 edition of International Cruise & Ferry Review. To read other articles, you can subscribe to the magazine in printed or digital formats.