In a mixed blessing for vacationers looking to “get away from it all,”
it’ll soon be easier to get online or on the phone to home or office from
the high seas.
The goal of SeaMobile is to provide wireless voice, data and Internet
services to cruise lines, yachts, ferries, container ships and off-shore
platforms. The company is headed by William Marks (a founder of DSS
Direct/Direct TV), ex-McCaw Cellular executive Jack Donohue and cable
television entrepreneur William Marks.
SeaMobile said its proprietary technology includes a sophisticated
IP/software-based solution that is “agnostic” to the type of phone (GSM,
GPRS or CDMA) used by the wireless customer when accessing the SeaMobile
network at sea. Vessels equipped with SeaMobile technology will allow
almost anyone aboard to use voice and data services available through
their wireless home carriers, just as they would on land, the company said.
In addition, SeaMobile’s solution can work with any satellite provider,
including those currently offering services to the maritime industry.
The new venture is funded by SeaMobile’s founders, other private
investors and Ignition Partners, the venture capital firm started by former
Microsoft and McCaw Cellular executives. In addition, the company said it has
more than 200 roaming agreements with wireless carriers around the world for
transparent connectivity to wireless services.
Customers using their personal cell phones or notebooks while at sea, for
example, will be billed by their home carriers, not the cruise line. The bill
will reflect an “At Sea” or some designation similar to a roaming charge.
The company said its aim is to keep those costs low, and that cruise ship
passengers will get information upfront as to the charges.
“We’re really excited about being able to give people the ability to walk
around on a cruise ship with their own cell phone and check voicemail, check
on the family, those sort of things you haven’t been able to do before,”
Chere Heintzmann, chief operating officer of SeaMobile, told
internetnews.com. Heintzmann said that SeaMobile has the ability to
completely outfit a ship, all decks at all levels, for wireless access, but
cruise lines will have different requirements and may restrict wireless to
some areas of the vessel.
“This is a huge value-add for the cruise lines, because they compete with
resorts, and this is one thing they haven’t been able to offer,” said
Heintzmann, “Some business people simply can’t afford to be away at sea for
a week or ten days and not be able to make a phone call.”
Analyst Roger Kay told internetnews.com that SeaMobile could quickly
become a dominant supplier in the cruise ship/seagoing market if it executes
quickly and effectively.
“The market isn’t all that big, and if these guys cover it well in a big
way, they just might have it to themselves,” said Kay, president of Endpoint
Heintzmann said partnership agreements are already in place, and that the
company would be making exclusive announcements with major international
cruise lines in the coming weeks. Ships outfitted with SeaMobile technology
are slated to set sail in the first half of 2006.