Despite the fact that some sailors would enjoy the chance to completely disconnect from the internet world for a few days, there are certain situations where having an internet connection on your boat is handy, from navigation to getting in touch with your friends and family. However, you may think that it’s not practical and inconvenient to connect to high speed internet while you’re 40 nautical miles away from shore.
Fortunately, the new technology we have right now makes it easier for people who mostly spend their day at sea. You have numerous internet options for your boat, including cellular hotspots, broadband global area network (BGAN,) or land-based public Wi-Fi via a Wi-Fi extender. Let’s dive into these internet options and see what works best for you.
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Your Internet Connection Options
You have four ways to get internet on your boat. While it may not be as fast as what your internet service provider gives you in your home, it still provides decent speeds that can help you accomplish different tasks.
1. Fixed Satellite Systems
One of the best ways to stay connected while sailing is by investing in a satellite dish. We all know that satellite internet is the most accessible type of internet connection. However, these will cost a lot of money, perhaps from $3,000 to $50,000 or more. Additionally, you’ll have to pay a significantly higher rate per megabyte of data than you would with a traditional cable or DSL connection. A typical fee is $0.50 per MB, so 4GB of data would cost roughly $2,000 with a satellite dish. Depending on how much data you use, there are plans starting at $50 per month for basic users all the way up to $1,000 per month for heavy data users.
2. Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN)
BGAN is an excellent alternative to satellite systems. These are portable systems that use a device that looks like a notebook or laptop to provide a mobile hotspot on your boat. A private company provides this service, which runs many satellites that connect to various terminals. WiFi, Ethernet, USB, or Bluetooth can be used to connect them, but GPS and a clear view of the sky are necessary.
You can choose from a variety of BGAN internet options, including Inmarsat BGAN Hughes 9202, Explorer 510 BGAN Terminal, KVH TacPhone HTS VSAT, and Cobham Explorer 710. The costs range from $2,795 to $49,995, with speeds ranging from 464KBps to 20Mbps.
3. Mobile Hotspots
If the first two options are too expensive for you, you can simply opt for a mobile hotspot. However, you will easily be disconnected once you’re already five to ten miles away from the shore. A mobile hotspot is a great option if you’re just following the shoreline, given that it’s more affordable too.
There are several marine-friendly hotspot options available in the United States, including Verizon Jetpack MiFi 6620L, Globalstar GSP-9699, NETGEAR AC 797 – 100NAS, and Glomex WEbBoat 4G Plus US Verizon. These hotspots cost around $139.99 to $995, with speeds ranging from 9.6Kbps to 4G LTE.
4. Public Wi-Fi via Wi-Fi Extender
Connecting to a public Wi-Fi may be the cheapest option you have. However, you cannot guarantee your connection, and you run the risk of security issues. Still, it’s still a viable option as long as you have a Wi-Fi extender mounted to your boat. Purchasing a marine Wi-Fi extender may be more expensive than a hotspot, but you won’t have to pay for a monthly plan. So you just have to pay one time, and you can enjoy the device for as long as you want.
If your local marina offers a strong Wi-Fi connection, you may be tempted to skip the extender. But, we highly recommend you have one to strengthen your connection, especially if you’re going to an unfamiliar destination. Some of the best Wi-Fi extenders you can get for your boat are Berifi BearExtender Antenna, Wave WiFi Rogue Pro, and C. Crane CC Vector RV Long Range Wi-Fi Repeater.
While it can be a bit challenging to stay connected while venturing into a beautiful sea, you still have many options when it comes to the internet. So, if you’ve been trying to have a reliable internet connection while sailing, we highly recommend you try any of these options.