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Old 14-01-2010, 12:15   #1
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Post Average Upload / Download - WiFi from Anchor

I'm interested to hear what people's average upload and download speeds are for thier WiFi connections when out at anchor. I'm hoping to get enough to do some telecommuting while living aboard. I know there are standard WiFi connection speeds but that's always kinda shady depending on distance. For example:

1. What is your upload/download 1-2 miles from some marina you are connected to.

2. What types of things do you do on this connection. Email, Web, Skype, File Transfers (FTP), Download Music/Movies, etc...

3. How reliable would you say it is? Do you get connected 50% of the time 80% of the time, when on teh East Coast of US?

4. Are there any spots along the East Coast you would say are DEAD ZONES or is there pretty much continuous coverage?

Looking forward to your posts.

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Old 14-01-2010, 13:53   #2
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There is no average. The speed of the transmission is based on the quality of the signal and the type of signal received. It can also be effected by the receiver quality as well.

In the 3G network along the east coast there are a fair number of dead zones even if there is a great amount of coverage. Parts of the ICW have no cell phone coverage at all. On a trip from Annapolis, MD to Charleston, SC last October we had IPhone 3G network coverage at some part of the day 80% of the time but we had a 100 mile section with none.

Wifi coverage in marinas is getting common and can be quite good. WiFi coverage at anchor is mostly limited to AT&T or Verizon networks on the east coast. 100% continuous coverage would only be a dream but you wouldn't want to pay that much to be always on.
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Old 15-01-2010, 10:43   #3
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Originally Posted by Pblais View Post
There is no average. The speed of the transmission is based on the quality of the signal and the type of signal received. It can also be effected by the receiver quality as well.

In the 3G network along the east coast there are a fair number of dead zones even if there is a great amount of coverage. Parts of the ICW have no cell phone coverage at all. On a trip from Annapolis, MD to Charleston, SC last October we had IPhone 3G network coverage at some part of the day 80% of the time but we had a 100 mile section with none.

Wifi coverage in marinas is getting common and can be quite good. WiFi coverage at anchor is mostly limited to AT&T or Verizon networks on the east coast. 100% continuous coverage would only be a dream but you wouldn't want to pay that much to be always on.
Paul, your post gives the impression that 3G wireless broadband access from AT&T and Verizon is WiFi-based, and that is not correct. They are two totally different technologies aimed at different applications. WiFi operates on un-regulated spectrum (2.4GHz or 5GHz), whereas 3G networks operate on regulated frequencies set aside for AT&T, Verizon, and other broadband wireless providers. The underlying technology of 3G is an outgrowth and extension of the 64kb/s digital voice of the telephone network; WiFi is a wireless extension/adaptation of IEEE 802 Ethernet data networks.

There is very little - if any - WiFi coverage provided by AT&T or Verizon along the east coast. Verizon's 3G coverage is excellent, though not anywhere near 100%. AT&T has less coverage, and Sprint even less.

I was hoping that WiMax - a highspeed data access technology with potential coverage similar to 3G/4G networks - would be widespread by now, but the FCC spectrum auctions didn't pan out well for WiMax backers... Intel was a major backer of WiMax.

That being said, if you're actively cruising and want to "telecommute" you will not be able to depend soley on remote WiFi access. There is no nationwide WiFi-based Internet access network comparable to the coverage offered by Verizon, let alone AT&T or Sprint. You can hop on unencrypted WiFi nets as you find them, but whether you can actually reach the Internet is hit or miss. Your bosses won't be happy with the "I missed my deadline because I couldn't access the Internet" excuse for very long.
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Old 15-01-2010, 11:26   #4
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Still limited, but this technology looks promising.
Clear is in your City from Atlanta to Las Vegas and Philadelphia to Portland - Clear Wireless Internet Coverage
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Old 15-01-2010, 11:37   #5
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Quote:
I was hoping that WiMax - a highspeed data access technology with potential coverage similar to 3G/4G networks - would be widespread by now, but the FCC spectrum auctions didn't pan out well for WiMax backers... Intel was a major backer of WiMax.
I was using the term WiFi to include all of the "wireless" technologies. The idea being anything is better than nothing and there isn't a lot of anything any place.

I know of no WiMax any place on the coast where you might be in a boat. If there is any it's not common. Coastal areas from NJ south to Beaufort, NC are sparsely populated for most of the distance even if there are places with a few people. Not much WiFi revenue in the tidal flooding areas. After that you have just a few cities but not much coastal population. I don't expect to see anything like WiMax in my lifetime along any significant amount coast any place.

Quote:
That being said, if you're actively cruising and want to "telecommute" you will not be able to depend solely on remote WiFi access.
Telecommuting isn't as great as it's cracked up to be. I've done it for 12 years now and it's still working for a living. I've also had high speed Internet the whole time being land based. Being aboard is enough work without having to make money too. With the exception of the Hughes Commercial satellite I had for almost 2 years (it sucked) it's all been via ISDN, DSL or Cable. For the east coast I would say Verizon has the most coverage and iPhone pretty close. Ain't no broadband except at a few marinas you may encounter. If you are bringing down several hundred thousand dollars a year you might look into the more expensive satellite systems. They still are going to be with per minute charges after the $30K for the gear.

As for Clear - other than Philly they are not near any place on the east coast where you could be in a boat cruising. Other than urban markets I doubt they have a prayer. Urban markets could make money. I don't think so in places you might actually want to be on the hook.

If you really need broadband you'll need to be plugged in or anchored some place where you can steal an open 802.11 home network. With a high gain antenna you could get a fair amount near the cities. Lots of folks do.

Once you leave the east coast it gets worse quickly. Better option is to quit working when you cruise. It can be distracting.
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Old 15-01-2010, 11:40   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beausoleil View Post
That being said, if you're actively cruising and want to "telecommute" you will not be able to depend soley on remote WiFi access. There is no nationwide WiFi-based Internet access network comparable to the coverage offered by Verizon, let alone AT&T or Sprint. You can hop on unencrypted WiFi nets as you find them, but whether you can actually reach the Internet is hit or miss. Your bosses won't be happy with the "I missed my deadline because I couldn't access the Internet" excuse for very long.
So if you were going to try to do work from your boat, is it even possible with technology as it sits today? I would intend on having a few redundant options depending on my situation. G3, WiFi, etc... but as for speeds... is this something you can work out somehow?

It's simply not feesible for me to go cruising without the ability for a resonably priced way to access the internet. I'm hoping to hop from area to area that has some marinas etc... with wifi access and anchore nearby but not sure if this is even realistic.
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Old 15-01-2010, 11:47   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pblais View Post
If you really need broadband you'll need to be plugged in or anchored some place where you can steal an open 802.11 home network. With a high gain antenna you could get a fair amount near the cities. Lots of folks do.

Once you leave the east coast it gets worse quickly. Better option is to quit working when you cruise. It can be distracting.
I'm expecting to say along the coast, but want to make sure I could have some sort of connection as needed.

I can work part-time and bring in about $50k/year in my line of work but that's only if I can get a connection obviously. I'd only be working when sitting still for a week or two in one spot and when a project is done, move on to the next stop along the way.

Any additional info would be great!

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Old 15-01-2010, 11:55   #8
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Paul; I've just returned from a ditch delivery to Florida. Verizon coverage is continuous. AT$T wasn't. From Fla I drove to Dallas, again with uninterrupted coverage. We lost iPhone in Central Florida and Louisiana.
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Old 15-01-2010, 12:04   #9
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So if you were going to try to do work from your boat, is it even possible with technology as it sits today? I would intend on having a few redundant options depending on my situation. G3, WiFi, etc... but as for speeds... is this something you can work out somehow?
I didn't mean to imply that!!!. My wife is now working (telecommuting) fulltime - 50 hours per week - from our boat while we're cruising the east coast. We'll head out to do a circumnavigation once her contract's up. For now, we're in Key West at a marina on Stock Island.

The trick is to do most of your sailing from port to port on weekends, or during scheduled time off. In populated places, like Mass Bay, LI Sound, Cheseapeake Bay, and populated coastal areas south, you can definitely sail 2-10miles off the coast and maintain connectivity with 3G wireless services - not WiFi (sorry Paul, but this is where you can't lump all wireless under the WiFi banner!). But otherwise, like remote areas of the ICW, you can't count on Verizon or AT&T 3G coverage, let alone WiFi.

WiFi was designed for short range access - typically much less than 100m. Yes, you can use a high-gain antenna and amplifiers (skirts FCC regs regarding allowed power output), but to make WiFi really work reliably at those distances, you need to modify some of the IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n technical parameters like timeouts, max frame size, etc. - not for the faint of heart. And the WiFi access point you're linking to across the harbor or in the marina needs to be modified/tuned as well - and they rarely are. Most people install an AP, give it an IP address and call it a day...

And finally - to answer your original question: WiFi upload/download speeds at anchor? The 802.11a/b version can reach up to 11Mb/s, /g goes to 54Mb/s. So the limiting factor isn't WiFi. It's the last mile connection from shore to the Internet - cable, DSL, FTTH (Fiber To The Home, like FiOS from Verizon). You can try all you want, but if the DSL link is only 256kb/s up and 768kb/s down, even IEEE 802.11b's full 10Mb/s actually goodput won't help you - the max you'll get is 256/768kb/s (and that's if you're the only user on that connection).
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Old 15-01-2010, 12:43   #10
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Quote:
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I didn't mean to imply that!!!. My wife is now working (telecommuting) fulltime - 50 hours per week - from our boat while we're cruising the east coast. We'll head out to do a circumnavigation once her contract's up. For now, we're in Key West at a marina on Stock Island.

The trick is to do most of your sailing from port to port on weekends, or during scheduled time off. In populated places, like Mass Bay, LI Sound, Cheseapeake Bay, and populated coastal areas south, you can definitely sail 2-10miles off the coast and maintain connectivity with 3G wireless services - not WiFi (sorry Paul, but this is where you can't lump all wireless under the WiFi banner!). But otherwise, like remote areas of the ICW, you can't count on Verizon or AT&T 3G coverage, let alone WiFi.
Well that's good to hear. My dreams were starting to get crushed. I'm hoping to pull my ground anchor in the next couple of years and head to the East Coast and just would like to keep as many of my clients happy at the same time as I can. I don't have a boss or anything that needs me at any given moment, but I have many clients who would liek to get a hold of me from time to time and I'd like to be able to continue doing my work from the boat as I love my work but also love sailing and the simple life aboard a boat.

I'm hoping to start in the cheseapeak, buy the boat and head south to FL during the winter and back up toward Maine in the Summers.... and along the way make stops to work and have fun. I just need to have some confidence I can pick up a decent connection along the way when I have a project I need to work on. When things are slow, I can head to the more secluded areas where I can only get the odd phone call and spend my down time living the life.

Well that's my hope anyway.
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Old 15-01-2010, 17:50   #11
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No rule. Great at places and sucks at other places. The problem seems to be overloading most of the time. We have a directional antenna (in marina) and a signal booster, so it should be very fast for us. Yes, it is - at 5 in the morning ;-(. But just let a couple of users skype their families with video and pom-pom-pom, g-bye Mr Internet.

So, it depends.

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Old 15-01-2010, 20:30   #12
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My typical tasks will be realated to email and sometimes attachments along with cell phone service and web access. Although in my business I often have to upload or download large files or sets of files for clients. Understanding that this will only be available to me if I have a good connection or can find an internet cafe like a starbucks or something, anyone see major flaws in technology or my thinking I should take into consideration? I'm expecting to get an antenna buster for wifi (I see they have some that go up to 2-5 miles) but i'm sure the further out the slower you go etc...

Thanks so far guys, lots of help!
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Old 15-01-2010, 21:21   #13
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I'm anchored in Melbourne, FL right now by the Indiatlantic Bridge. My long range WiFi system brought up 75 stations tonight - honest - 75. I was able to connect to a couple. I only ever use open WiFi now for watching video (hulu, etc). We got to watch some things over the last few nights that hulu keeps for us.

Anyway, to answer your questions:

1. What is your upload/download 1-2 miles from some marina you are connected to.
Varies greatly. I'm about 2 miles (at least) from the site I connected to and had a 450 kb throughput rate when watching the video (I measured it). That's the lower end speed required for video.

2. What types of things do you do on this connection. Email, Web, Skype, File Transfers (FTP), Download Music/Movies, etc...
Only the things that use a lot of cellular bandwidth (video mostly). I'm very concerned about an "open" WiFi site that's really a 14 year old scraping passwords from your transactions. I never do email or anything with an account (Skype) unless it's a secure WiFi connection with a known provider.

3. How reliable would you say it is? Do you get connected 50% of the time 80% of the time, when on teh East Coast of US?
I consider WiFi totally unreliable. It is a rare evening when we have it unless we're at a marina (which is rare too).

4. Are there any spots along the East Coast you would say are DEAD ZONES or is there pretty much continuous coverage?
Yeah, Maine through Key West. Seriously - it's almost impossible to get an open WiFi spot any longer.

It isn't all doom and gloom. Cellular does a fantastic job. I'm connected to both Verizon's network and AT&T's network here with > 1 mb throughput on each here in Melbourne. It's quite typical to have > 500 kb connectivity all along the east coast. I live in Maine and have tested it all along the east coast thru Key West. Some places have better Verizon connectivity and some have better AT&T - that's a toss up in my mind. Offshore, AT&T seems to do better. We were doing an overnight passage from Fernandina Beach, FL to Cape Canaveral last night. I had exceptional AT&T connectivity at 6 miles offshore all night. It's wonderful to surf while on watch. I couldn't get a Verizon signal until I was well into the Canaveral inlet. This isn't a slam at Verizon. There are other places where AT&T was terrible (North Carolina and the Chesapeake).

If I could only have one technology today, without question, I'd use cellular for internet connectivity. It's safe. The speeds are great along the waterways. And it's really not very expensive.
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Old 16-01-2010, 10:18   #14
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It isn't all doom and gloom. Cellular does a fantastic job. I'm connected to both Verizon's network and AT&T's network here with > 1 mb throughput on each here in Melbourne. It's quite typical to have > 500 kb connectivity all along the east coast. I live in Maine and have tested it all along the east coast thru Key West. Some places have better Verizon connectivity and some have better AT&T - that's a toss up in my mind. Offshore, AT&T seems to do better. We were doing an overnight passage from Fernandina Beach, FL to Cape Canaveral last night. I had exceptional AT&T connectivity at 6 miles offshore all night. It's wonderful to surf while on watch. I couldn't get a Verizon signal until I was well into the Canaveral inlet. This isn't a slam at Verizon. There are other places where AT&T was terrible (North Carolina and the Chesapeake).

If I could only have one technology today, without question, I'd use cellular for internet connectivity. It's safe. The speeds are great along the waterways. And it's really not very expensive.
With that said, I suppose you're using some kind of card you purchased from AT&T and/or Verizon to stick into your laptop... what product do you have? 500kb/s - 1mb/s is pretty much broadband service over cell network. That would be fabulous and enough for my purposes I think. Woudl take me longer to uploading/download larger files, but I can go swimming while I wait a bit. Really 1mb/s streams of data? What's the upload at&t and verizon cards like that?
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Old 16-01-2010, 12:25   #15
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With that said, I suppose you're using some kind of card you purchased from AT&T and/or Verizon to stick into your laptop...
Sort of. We have multiple computers and other devices to connect so a normal aircard would present problems. An aircard can be shared with a CradlePoint device (which have other features too) or one of the newer broadband devices can be used. On our boat, we're currently using a Verizon MiFi for Verizon data access. It's a credit card sized device that connects to Verizon and then creates a little WiFi hotspot on your boat that 5 devices can connect to and share the cellular connection. It is fantastic.

For AT&T we use a jailbroken iPhone that can connect to a laptop over it's WiFi radio in a similar way. That has been exceptional too.

We run a major web site from the boat and are big users of mobile connectivity. I think there is no issue with cruising the east coast and maintaining great connectivity if you need it. You might need amps and an antenna but there is plenty of info about how to do all of that.
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