I am still analyzing my big trip through the Baltic
last summer -- 3000 miles, 10 countries, 4 months -- a really incredible cruise
I am not retired, and have to keep up with my business while I'm cruising, which is true of a number of us I imagine. So communications
are extremely important.
In Northern Europe
, mobile phone
coverage is awfully good, and mobile phone-based Internet
more than satisfactory, especially with LTE (true 4G; not the 3.5G HSPA+ falsely advertised as 4G in the US) rolling out.
Nevertheless, there were a fair number of times when there was a signal, but just not quite a good enough signal, for me to work efficiently. There were a few times when I couldn't get a reliable voice connection, either.
So now I'm revising this whole system, and have some thoughts, and some questions.
First of all, my trusty Globersurfer III 3.5G router, which I have been using with great results for nearly 5 years, finally died. I replaced it with a Huwei Mifi device. This works ok, but it has no external antenna
connection. I tried Noelex's trick of hauling it up the mast
on a halyard
-- yes, that increases the range somewhat, but it needs a better antenna
So after considering a Huawei 5776 mifi device, I finally settled on something different -- the fixed Huawei B593S router which is more like the Globesurfer in form factor and function. Unlike mifi devices, this does not have a battery
-- it is intended for fixed installation
, not putting in your pocket.
Why did I go this route
? Because this device is bound to have better internal antennas and hardware
. It is native 12 volts so will be easy to wire up, and it will fit right in the space at my nav table where the Globesurfer used to live. It has Ethernet and USB ports
and has more functions than pocket mifi devices. It also has a telephone handset port -- something I always intended to use on the Globesurfer (but admittedly never did). Here's the B593: http://www.huawei.com/ecommunity/bbs/10176957.html
It has two antenna ports
so you can connect a diversity external antenna. I also ordered one of these.
The last thing I ordered was a security
cam 12v battery
pack with charger
. The idea is that I will put the antenna and battery pack into a waterproof project
box, so that I can send the B593 up the mast
in case I am desperate for signal. Otherwise, Plan "A" is to leave the B593 at the nav table with the antenna suction cupped to a salon
When I get it all put together and try it, I will report on how well it works, and post photos of the installation
. I have high hopes. LTE (4G) coverage is now just about fully deployed in the Southern part of the UK, and in many parts
of the Baltic
Now to the question of voice comms. There were not all that many occasions, other than being far out to sea, when I had no voice comms, but the few times there were, were too many. I need to do something about it. One variant is to use the B593 with its strong antenna, but the data SIM cards I mostly use don't allow voice calls. I guess I could switch the SIM cards, but that's a bit of a PITA.
I guess I could use VOIP, and forward my voice number to some VOIP account, when I know I'm going to be in regions with dodgy signals. VOIP should work extremely well with an LTE data connection.
I guess I could buy a second B593 and antenna, and use that for voice. The radio
part will be much more robust than what we have in handheld mobile phones, and the B593 has external antenna connectors. It used to be possible to buy really sturdy, high powered (5 watts) GSM phones for installation in cars (Nokia and Ericsson made them, IIRC). Is there nothing like that made today? There would surely be a market for a modern, fixed installed, high powered, robust GSM phone
which could be installed in your boat with a good fixed antenna. No amount of googling on my part has turned up any such device, however. There are plenty of "desktop" mobile phone devices, and some of them have external antenna connections, which is good, but nothing with higher power, as far as I could tell.