ALL AT SEA – Making money with maritime mobile connectivity

ALL AT SEA – Making money with maritime mobile connectivity

Bo Pinel, business development director

Bo Pinel, business development director at Navitas Telecom

Despite these strained economic times it seems that a mobile phone is the one necessity that many cannot live without. Emeka Obiodu, an analyst from research company Ovum, is currently tracking revenue growth trends in the European mobile market and has found it is business as usual for mobile operators continuing to grow their revenues in the face of economic downturn.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) provides further reassurance, predicting by the close of 2008 there will be over four billion mobile phone subscribers worldwide. However, mobile operators are becoming increasingly aware of declining voice revenues, turning to focus on nonvoice services to provide additional revenue streams and increase ARPU.

What next for mobile?

Services like mobile broadband are becoming increasingly critical to mobile operators’ business, especially in countries where new mobile subscribers are not growing as rapidly. Recently the GSMA, a global trade association, reported that mobile broadband subscribers have reached the 50 million mark, up from 11 million in 2007. With increasing uptake for these services, the handset is now a multimedia device, used for voice calls and additional

services like television on the move and the internet.

Mobile operators are looking to profit from new services and technology if they are to remain competitive and retain their subscribers. Fortunately a new trend is developing for maritime mobile roaming that supports these additional services and further extends connectivity boundaries.

Traditionally there were a number of barriers facing mobile operators looking to provide mobile connectivity at sea. Up until five years ago there was not sufficient bandwidth available on ships to support GSM services. Making voice calls and sending texts was difficult, as the available bandwidth was being used up by vital services crucial for running a ship. Furthermore, installation costs were high, with it costing over £50,000 per ship to set up a mobile network.

Today, with advancements in technology and demand for more bandwidth hungry services, such as on board internet access and in cabin telephones, it is possible to support a whole host of services, including a mobile network as well as maintaining the vital services required to run a ship. The cost of deploying mobile networks at sea has also dropped considerably with some equipment manufacturers developing simple network systems specifically designed for the maritime market. With these financial and technological developments it seems that it is the right time to be providing mobile connectivity at sea. The developments also offer new opportunities for land-based networks as maritime GSM is primarily dependent on establishing a network of global roaming agreements.

Business benefits for maritime roaming Mobile operators are constantly looking for new ways to increase ARPU in order to remain competitive within the market. Maritime roaming has the potential to be very profitable for mobile operators as premium roaming revenue can be generated whenever a subscriber travels on a cruise ship or ferry.

In terms of customer experience, those who roam regularly tend to be of high value so the better experience they have with a seamless roaming service, the more they will use their phone and stay loyal to their service provider. Alternatively, those who are unable to use their mobile phone in remote locations might be tempted to swap to another mobile provider offering this service. Maritime roaming lets mobile operators extend their global coverage, differentiating them from their competitors offering identical services.

The whole process of roaming has now been streamlined allowing greater transparency, so mobile operators can easily see the revenue streams generated from maritime roaming versus traditional (land-based) roaming giving greater billing transparency.

Providing mobile connectivity at sea is easier than ever before, as land-based mobile operators can now partner with maritime specialists to help. Maritime GSM providers are already installing and managing mobile networks on ships of all sizes, so can successfully bridge the connectivity gap for mobile users at sea.

Maritime mobile connectivity has the potential to go beyond simply making voice calls and texting, replicating those ‘killer’ applications that have been proven on land. With 3G as the most common mobile standard, fast data speeds can be successfully achieved for popular mobile services.

Looking to the future we can expect to see HSPA, the next generation mobile standard supporting even higher data speeds needed for new services like live video streaming. There is a strong future for maritime roaming as an additional revenue generator or differentiator in a crowded market, driven by consumer demand to achieve complete mobile connectivity.

Maritime GSM provider, Navitas Telecom, provides superior mobile telephony solutions in remote locations, both at sea and on land.

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