Global Wireless

Global Wireless
Wire for Wireless
How one company wants to bring the Internet to your boat--no strings attached.

By Brad Dunn — September 2001
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It took about 22 days to run the T1 line out to North Point Marina in Chicago. A few days later the four rooftop access boxes were up and running. The antennas were installed after that, and by midJune the 1,700-slip marina was broadcasting the Internet like a radio station.

Systems like this are going up almost daily across the boating world. Built in segments much like the first trans-continental railroad, a wireless Web network is now under construction at marinas up and down the East Coast and in the Great Lakes. Behind it all is Global Wireless, a company that is laying miles of wires so that you can cut the one to your computer.

Gerald Berton, who is president of Global Wireless and also of Global Yachts in Miami, founded Global Wireless last year. He says the company, whose goal is to attract 125,000 new subscribers next year, is the first of its kind in the boating industry. It offers wireless services not just at marinas but also at home--through partnerships with Cable & Wireless, Lucent, and Cisco.

Berton's vision is nothing less than an uninterrupted track of Global Wireless-equipped marinas from Maine to Key West, across the Great Lakes, and eventually along the West Coast. And he's racing--to the tune of 20 marinas per month at presstime--to the get the network built as soon as possible. "Boaters want the freedom to log on to the Internet through a high-speed wireless system while they cruise," he says. "We're the first to offer them that ability."

This month Global Wireless will add its 40th marina to an expanding constellation of wireless Internet outlets. By next year the company wants to have 1,900 more locations in place, and if it can continue wiring marinas as quickly as the one in Chicago, it should stay on track.

"Those antennas seemed to sprout up over night," observes Roger Mellem, harbormaster at North Point Marina. "I think many of our customers are going to love getting on their boats and logging on to the Internet."

To start surfing on Global's system, all you need is your laptop or desktop computer (or Web-capable personal data assistant, or PDA), a PCMCIA card, and a subscription to Global Wireless. The company sells its own PCMCIA cards for $185, which includes a free month of service. The add-ons are credit-card size devices, compatible with both PCs and Macs, and essentially act as an antenna that links your machine to the World Wide Web.

The Global Wireless subscription works like a typical ISP account: For $39.95 a month you receive unlimited Web access (the rate bumps up to $49.95 if you only want the service during your boating season). When you sign up, the company sends you a CD-ROM containing all instructions, registration information, and necessary software for cruising the Internet.

Next page > Wireless continued > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the June 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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