photo: Apple

Due to popular demand we had our interview with transcribed so that readers could share it with their friends and family that travel. Below is the interview transcript from Brent Horwitz, Vice President of Cruise at MTN Communications talking with us about their new educational staying connected sea website, Connect at Sea.
If you want to hear the broadcast, you can listen here.

So here’s our interview:

These days, you can’t leave the house without your smartphone and now, that’s carried on to cruise vacations. Joining us now is the senior vice president and general manager of cruise for MTN Communications, Brent Horowitz. Brent, welcome to the show, my friend.
Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to join you.
Yes, thank you for being here and answering some of our questions for us and the listeners, today. Brent, recently, MTN launched their consumer website that has been a great help to cruise passengers. It’s called
With that said, many cruise passengers are always concerned and asking us questions about staying connected at sea, how does that website help cruise passengers?
The website, itself is an educational forum. It’s a net educational platform. The goal is really to help consumers understand how to connect to the Wi-Fi or how to connect generally on the vessel as long as tips along how to use your device, how to optimize it for the satellite, what do you expect in terms of what the internet experience looks like and how much does it cost.
How instrumental has MTN Communications’ been and give us a little background about it on how it’s brought internet to cruise ships because 15 years ago, this wasn’t possible.
Okay, so MTN has been around since about 1981. We were the original provider of what we called VSAT, very small aperture terminal satellite technology.
In other words, we integrate about 30 different satellite beams across the world to provide a global broadband solution for cruise ships primarily, but also to super yachts and oil and gas rigs and that sort of thing.
Our goal is to try really, to blur the lines between the ship and the shore and to try to offer a broadband solution that’s very similar to what someone experiences in their home or their office.
We access satellites that are located 22,300 miles above the earth’s equator and so the experience on board is a little bit different because it takes about this signal to move at the speed of light, about 500 milliseconds to go up to the satellite and back to earth. The experience is a little bit different. There’s a little bit of a delay with which we call latency.
Those are some of the things that we’re trying to level set with the consumers, so they understand that the experience on board is just a little bit different from what they get at home.
Well, you mentioned the broadband experience and a lot of cruise passengers are like, I don’t want to pay the, let’s just say, 75 cents a minute because I’m going to get a dial up connection. But is it really dial up speed or is it quicker than dial up because they think of dial up, they’re thinking of like 1992 with AOL.
Yes, that’s right. Let me give a little bit of a background about the evolution of how this has progressed.  We started, maybe 15 years ago or so with a very, very slow connection that was literally equivalent to a dial up, maybe 128 kilobits or 256 kilobits. Now, we’re really in the realm of multiple, multiple megabits.
Years ago, prior to the revolution of people bringing their laptops or tablets or the mobile phones, the cruise lines themselves provided work stations and there were only a finite members of those. Even though that the experience was slow, there weren’t many that concurrent users on board.
What we’ve seen in the last couple of years is that the cruise lines have really invested millions of dollars in building out Wi-Fi infrastructure, in investing in a lot more bandwidths. The user experience itself was improving every single day.
Got you, very good. Well, let’s talk about the user experience because I’m just going to tell you, Brent that a couple of years ago, I took a cruise and I came home and I had a $586 cell phone bill from AT&T. What can listeners do to avoid my mistake?
Part of what we were trying to accomplish with the educational platform on the Connect at sea dot com is to provide the tips necessary for consumers to be informed. In other words, we say, for example; put your device in the airplane mode, turn off the update, disable the automatic downloads, those types of things.
But more than that, I think there’s two different ways to connect while you’re on the ship. But default on your mobile phone is probably to use the cellular infrastructure that’s on board the vessel.
The way that that works is most ships today, almost all ships have cellular infrastructure on board and they work with companies like AT&T that use hundreds of roaming relationships with different carriers. You’re right; the price that you pay on the ship is a lot higher than you would normally pay because it goes through all these roaming relationships.
Part of what we’re trying to accomplish, both through the connected fee websites, as well as through our internet café portal on board is to enable customers to switch from the mobile phone to the Wi-Fi in which he is paying a much, much lower rate as opposed to paying let’s say, $20 per megabyte or three or so dollars per minute.
It could be much, much less by using your mobile device as opposed to using the roaming infrastructure.
That clears a lot of things up. Let’s talk about the actual Wi-Fi experience on board because like on the message boards, half the people say Skype works and half of them say it’s blocked. I personally never had a problem. Is blocking apps like Skype up to the discretion of the cruise line?
It is up to the cruise line and I think increasingly, because when the bandwidth was severely constricted and because Skype has a very bandwidth intensive application, the cruise lines did everything that they could to try to block Skype and other peer to peer applications. While that may still be the letter of the law, I think it’s becoming increasingly difficult to block this type of traffic.
One of the things that crui

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