July 2005 
Volume 04, Issue 3 
Connexion By Boeing

Maritime: The next frontier

Connexion now serves oceangoing vessels


Connexion now serves oceangoing vesselsAs the world's only in-flight broadband voice and data service provider, Connexion by Boeing's position as a leader in the industry is solid. Not content to rest on its laurels, however, Connexion recently took its high-speed connectivity services a step further by launching into the maritime market.

The maritime solution capitalizes on Connexion's existing satellite and ground-based networks—using orbiting transponders it already leases—to bring to the maritime industry the same capabilities for robust, high-speed connectivity that passengers traveling on its customer airlines now enjoy.

"Our goal is to bring affordable, high-speed 'office-like' communications services to oceangoing vessels," said Sean Schwinn, director of Maritime for Connexion by Boeing. "This market is currently underserved with existing technology. What Connexion by Boeing offers will enable customers to dramatically improve operations among their ships and improve the quality of daily life for their crews."

Teekay Shipping Corp., which transports more than 10 percent of the world's seaborne oil, became Connexion's launch customer for maritime service on June 15, shortly after completing a successful three-month trial of the maritime service and technology.

Connexion now serves oceangoing vesselsFor a monthly fee per vessel, Connexion by Boeing will provide Teekay the equipment required for on-demand broadband connectivity, with a flexible plan to allow ships to share unused minutes.

Maritime communications, an estimated $1 billion industry, targets a broad market, including ship owners and operators, merchant fleets, government craft and private yacht owners—essentially most ships that traverse the open ocean.

Connexion by Boeing has been working with potential customers in recent months to help them understand how broadband service on board vessels will enable them to operate more effectively and profitably and to help their crews in their demanding daily lives at sea, Schwinn said.

Vessel operators and crews can use Connexion by Boeing to access the Internet to send and receive e-mails, including those with large attachments; to get detailed news, weather or destination information; and to view satellite-television programming—all at high speeds and competitive pricing. These capabilities and more are expected to improve significantly the efficiency and safety of operations at sea.

Schwinn said there are approximately 30,000 oceangoing vessels, or "terminals," such as tankers and cargo ships that have some form of satellite communications system on board.

"These systems operate at a rate of 9.6 kilobits per second, the equivalent of 1980s technology," Schwinn said. "The most sophisticated systems I've seen operate at 64 kbps, and even at those speeds the cost to the user could be up to $8 per minute."

Indeed, soon ships will not have access at all—the "9.6 kbps service" is scheduled to be discontinued in 2007.

Maritime is a new-frontier business for Boeing, taking existing technology and using it in an innovative way. Broadband connectivity technology on ships is very similar to that currently used by commercial aircraft, only with a different antenna.

Connexion's trial with Teekay tested broadband services across the north Atlantic, looking for issues such as how water, motion and distance from the satellites affect signal reception. The trial also tested voice over Internet protocol telephony, paying close attention to the "utility" of the functions, or how crews used the services.

Teekay personnel were enthusiastic about the new service, and the trial was declared a success.

Schwinn is optimistic about the future of the maritime business, noting the Connexion by Boeing maritime team is performing to plan, on schedule to be operating in full service by the end of 2005. Its goal is serving 20 to 25 percent of the existing fleet of oceangoing commercial vessels.

"We believe once lower-cost communications becomes available to vessel operators and crews, demand will increase," Schwinn said. "Just like what the world saw in the cellular telephone market, we believe so will go the maritime broadband market."

Ultimately, Schwinn said, Connexion by Boeing's maritime offering is not just about the sailors and ship-to-shore communications, but making improvements for fleet operators that will bring benefits to the consumer.

"We've talked with a lot of fleet operators prior to launching this service," Schwinn said. "They've told me more communication brings greater value. Always."


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