NCL Corporation today announced that it will be the first cruise line to bring passengers on North American cruises the ability to use their cell phones even when communications towers are oceans away. The company is providing the innovative new offering through Wireless Maritime Services, a joint venture of AT&T Wireless and Maritime Telecommunications Network (MTN).
Leading the way in shipboard technology, NCL pioneered the industry's first Internet access on the high seas with its Internet cafe in 1999. In 2002, NCL became the first cruise line to provide remote wireless Internet (also known as Wi-Fi) to its guests. Both services are now standard throughout NCL's entire fleet.
The new technology is expected to be introduced on the Norwegian Sun as soon as next month and could be available fleet-wide within a year. The offering combines satellite and wireless services, enabling passengers to make and receive calls on their own cell phones with their own phone numbers while in international waters.
The service will be available to most passengers with GSM phones that operate at 900 MHz and 1900 MHz, which are common in the U.S. These passengers will be able to make and receive both voice calls and text messages. In addition, the planned offering will enable passengers with data-capable GSM/GPRS devices to access data services, such as email and picture messaging. Passengers will be billed by the carrier to whom they subscribe at roaming rates set by that carrier, just as if they were roaming on land instead of at sea.
Earlier this year, AT&T Wireless and MTN announced the formation of Wireless Maritime Services, which combines MTN's expertise in providing satellite services to the cruise industry with the expertise of AT&T Wireless in delivering wireless services to consumer and business travelers. Wireless Maritime Service was formed to develop and launch this convenient and affordable communications offering for cruise ships.