Originally Posted by debath
90% of the work I do is on computer. Does anyone know of a sensibly priced option for accessing the internet in order to upload files to a server and to access emails?
Hi Deb. I can't help with the geographic availability there, but I can run down the technological options.
3. HF radio
What works for you depends on how often you need to connect and your bandwidth needs. There is a load of difference between moving code around and uploading images
. Similarly, plain-text e-mail is easier than e-mail with lots of bloated attachments. Do you have to have telnet, SSH, and FTP access or will e-mail alone work?
Remember to consider the power requirements of your computer(s) and work that into the operating profile.
-- I'm sure you are familiar with this and it's range limits. You can extend those limits significantly by putting a bridge (I use a Linksys WET-54G) at the masthead with power-over-Ethernet and running Ethernet down to your computer. In theory you should be able to put a wireless router in the boat, but I haven't gotten that working yet (I just plug
the Ethernet into my laptop). An alternative many use with success is a USB connected external Wifi adapter to get the antenna
higher than your laptop
. Wifi issues: good bandwidth, limited range, some increase in power consumption
if you use the bridge approach, depending on your cruising grounds you may go several days at a time without access, some cost depending on availability (or lack) of free access points.
2. Cellular -- You can connect an existing phone
to your computer or get a separate PC-card. Data rates are generally good but not great. There is GPRS in Australia
that works well; I don't know the 3G build-out there, but if you have access to that upgraded cellular infrastructure the transfer speeds are darn good. If you move images
you'll notice the transfer time, but not for most e-mail. Works fine for telnet and general web access. Range is much better than Wifi. There are wireless routers available that accept a cellular data card so you can put them high(er) up for extended range. Cellular issues: good bandwidth, reasonable range, some increase in power consumption
if you use an access router, there may be some coverage gaps but less than wifi, definitely a cost (60 USD per month here for unlimited data -- I have no idea what is available there).
3. HF radio
(SSB) -- With a new(ish) ham HF radio
or marine SSB radio
(both of which use shortwave frequencies), a specialized radio-modem, and a little software
on your computer you can send and receive e-mail over shortwave radio. The radio needs to switch between send and receive fast enough to support the mode and some older ones don't. Range is global. Reliability
is good but not great -- sometimes propagation doesn't let you connect. I used this technology to stay in touch by voice and e-mail while crossing the Atlantic. I exchanged e-mail two or three times a day and maintained a sporadic voice contact schedule (interestingly the digital e-mail was much much more reliable than voice). There are two commonly used e-mail service
providers: Winlink is free and uses ham radio frequencies which requires a license
(Australia no longer requires morse code for a ham license
, but there is an exam - ham radio cannot be used for commercial
purposes); Sailmail is 250 USD / year and uses marine
frequencies (you can use it for commercial
purposes and e-mail attachments are supported). Both Winlink and Sailmail have connect time limits, although how they are imposed differs. In theory, you can make a telnet connection over HF radio but to my knowledge there is no one providing that service
. It would be pretty awful. If I recall
correctly the effective bandwidth is 30 - 100 bps (yes bits, only bits). Initial equipment
cost runs 2000 - 5000 USD plus antenna
(not expensive) and installation
. HF issues: awful bandwidth, global range, significant increase in power consumption for the radio and modem, incidental cost, e-mail only.
4. Satellite -- This breaks down into satellite phones and satellite terminals.
4a. Satellite phones -- Iridium
are the available services. Other names in the business are resellers. These are big clunky phones (like the original car phones). Built-in or fixed station equipment
is much better on a boat as they allow for better antennas and therefore faster and more reliable connections. I think connect speeds run around 9600 bps. Satellite coverage is an issue; I don't know what the coverage is in Australia
, but you should be able to Google
is having real reliability
problems. Satellite phone
issues: acceptable bandwidth, range limited only by satellite coverage, some increase in power consumption for the phone, significant cost for equipment, significant cost for connection.
4b. Satellite terminals -- Inmarsat is the main player here. I think there are others. These have all the advantages and disadvantages of satellite phones on a grander scale: more cost, more bandwidth, better coverage. Satellite terminal issues: broadband
speeds, range limited only by satellite coverage, increase in power consumption for the terminal and the antenna, very significant costs for equipment and service.
Most of the people I know or know of that are trying to work while cruising and need communications
regularly and reliably use Iridium
phones. Those that need continuous contact use wifi and/or cellular phones and limit their cruising areas to those with coverage. Some hardy souls use HF radio, but most are authors who only periodically need to send content and receive edits.