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Old 31-08-2016, 07:59   #1
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Satellite broadband internet, now and in the near future...

Greetings all!

I had a very interesting chat with my boss yesterday about working remotely. Looks like, as long as I have a reliable internet connection for VOIP conference calls, email and connecting to a corporate VPN, I can work from just about anywhere. I can keep my job, and go cruising :-). This could allow me to significantly accelerate my current 5-year plan to get my boat and myself ready to head out.

So what are the options currently available, and also what is coming in the next 2-3 years? Since I'm not looking for a solution right away, I can wait if there's something better coming. I've heard of Iridium Next, which sounds promising. Are there any other cool new systems on the horizon?

What type of equipment and voice/data plan is needed for a doing real work, more than just calling home or posting to Facebook? I know a lot of that depends on actual usage, which I have no way of determining yet, so just looking for ideas at this stage. Any and all comments are welcome...

Regards,
David
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Old 31-08-2016, 08:10   #2
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Re: Satellite broadband internet, now and in the near future...

Hi David,

Having done this for the last 3 years I have to say its more difficult than you would believe.

Satellite comms are incredibly slow for data rates and very expensive per minute. Think 1990 dial up speeds - maybe. So really, the satphone is only good for talking in the context of work BUT its very expensive per minute.

I think that most remote workers - including myself - depend on good old cell phone communications for work. Wifi is not fast enough, not available reliably, and just plain not stable. Some providers in other countries won't allow you to connect over their networks using a VPN.I use a combination of AT&T and Verizon as a hotspot or when in the Bahamas use Batelco. This means we need to always be in a place that has a strong signal, which means places that are generally more populated, which is contrary to our desires for cruising.

Really, the hardest part isn't really the comms... its the work environment itself. Some of your colleagues will get very resentful of you and be very passive-aggressive because of that resentment. Its better you don't tell colleagues that you live on a boat.

Then, there are going to be times when you flat out cannot work. Like when you MUST move your boat to get out of the way of a storm, or maybe leave a marina because your lease is done. Sure, there are ways to adapt but it can be a real pain.

Then there are problems with background noise. Seriously - they can hear the waves behind you.

Then there is the issue of transportation - access to a good airport with reasonable fares to get you back to the office for those "must attend" face-to-face meetings that invariably come up three days out.

Also, clients still get strung up on your being in a predictable workplace - even though you do not work for them.


2n
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Old 31-08-2016, 08:13   #3
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Re: Satellite broadband internet, now and in the near future...

Good luck on finding reliable affordable fast internet access. Unless you are in an area with a good economical social structure for a WIFI shore connection, you won't find it fast or cost effective. Sat is slow and expensive. Good for emails but at 1++ $ a minute?

As for future, we keep hearing this or that fantasy for a number of years and it never materializes. I mean exact stuff like next year 12 new sats, and they run into complications or it's cancelled. I suspect it won't be cheaper.
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Old 31-08-2016, 08:15   #4
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Re: Satellite broadband internet, now and in the near future...

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Originally Posted by zboss View Post
Hi David,

Having done this for the last 3 years I have to say its more difficult than you would believe.
This was all good stuff √
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Old 31-08-2016, 08:25   #5
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Re: Satellite broadband internet, now and in the near future...

Even circumnavigators spend a fairly small fraction of their time out of range of mobile phone towers, so broadband data out of sight of land is not the main issue, and may not be necessary at all.

I work full time while cruising, myself, and I don't have any big problem with communications. In Northern Europe mobile phone coverage is almost seamless out to 5 or 10 miles from shore, and LTE data (very fast -- usually at least 10 gbs up and down and sometimes 20) costs as little as a euro per gigabyte. It is usually as good as a land DSL line, also in terms of latency, so VOIP and IP videoconferencing work very well.

I occasionally drop off for a few days while on a long passage far offshore, but my work is not seriously harmed by this. I can do text email over HF radio if necessary, and I also have a sat phone for such cases, but have never bothered to activate it.

Marina wifi has been getting better by leaps and bounds the last couple of years, and so I use that more and more, too. I have used a Ubiquiti Bullet for enhanced wifi connections, now replaced with a Microtik Groove.
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Old 31-08-2016, 08:29   #6
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Re: Satellite broadband internet, now and in the near future...

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Originally Posted by SaltyMonkey View Post
reliable affordable fast internet access
Yeah, this is like finding the proverbial unicorn! Can't have reliable, affordable and fast, all at the same time - some tradeoffs are inevitable, it's just a matter of finding the solution that meets at least some of the criteria. It will almost certainly end up being a hybrid of satellite, cellular and WiFi, and I'm trying to educate myself on what the options are.

Interestingly, I used to work for KVH about 20 years ago, when they first started making mobile satellite antenna systems. I wrote a lot of the code in their first-generation systems for Inmarsat-M. But that was all a long time ago, and things have changed a lot since then...

Regards,
David.
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Old 31-08-2016, 08:39   #7
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Re: Satellite broadband internet, now and in the near future...

Good luck trying to be in an IT team situation with Slack or HipChat or Skype or whatever. Working remotely doesn't remove the need to interaction constantly with other members and to be available. In fact, it increases that need. If something complicated happens Chat is impossible and you need to whiteboard, screen-share, and discuss via Voice. Nothing is RELIABLE or FAST enough, yet alone AFFORDABLE. Your job won't pick up that bill.
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Old 31-08-2016, 08:58   #8
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Re: Satellite broadband internet, now and in the near future...

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Originally Posted by SaltyMonkey View Post
Good luck trying to be in an IT team situation with Slack or HipChat or Skype or whatever. Working remotely doesn't remove the need to interaction constantly with other members and to be available. In fact, it increases that need. If something complicated happens Chat is impossible and you need to whiteboard, screen-share, and discuss via Voice. Nothing is RELIABLE or FAST enough, yet alone AFFORDABLE. Your job won't pick up that bill.
You mean offshore? Fleet Broadband will do it, but you would have to have a really high value job for that to be economically rational.

In port or near a coast, however, LTE mobile phone data will definitely work for all of that. At least in countries with good mobile phone infrastructure, but I think most of the world is covered now. Having two or three different accounts with two or three different providers, and a few different routers around the boat, helps to reduce the risks of ineffective comms.
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Old 31-08-2016, 09:13   #9
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Re: Satellite broadband internet, now and in the near future...

BTW - no one here is trying to discourage you. Just point at the reality.

No doubt, working remotely on a boat can put your job in jeopardy at worst and at best make it very difficult to advance - regardless of how fancy your communications are.

The worst part is having to find yourself back in an office! "What? I need to wear a tie?" What is a tie? While I have been very selective with who I reveal "my secret" to, I've had to let a few very trust worthy individuals in on it because you do need to associate with a team that will keep your secret and cover for you when things go badly. So, you may want to give some forethought to who those team members are and start slowly working them into the idea of working remote.

Also, some companies have a culture or remote work that may be accepting of remote work within the context of you doing it over broadband from your home vs doing it broadband from your boat. I've never understood why it makes such a difference but apparently working from Starbucks is different form working from your boat in the caribbean . Then, there are companies that don't have official remote work policies that are oblivious of the remote work problems that occasionally arise and therefore (quite surprisingly) end up being very flexible with the arrangement at the managerial level until something comes up and then its "we think we are going to rescind the remote work opportunities" from the executive group.

I'm planning on quitting my full time IT job and going to contracting maybe end of next year. I'd rather "be on" for three months at a time in a stable location then spend the next 9 months sailing, just because of these issues.
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Old 31-08-2016, 10:02   #10
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Re: Satellite broadband internet, now and in the near future...

Central America is full of 4g towers now. My wife takes care of a website from the boat in the western Caribbean. The Pactor modem and a 4g stick for the computer seems to do it most of the time.
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Old 31-08-2016, 10:12   #11
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Re: Satellite broadband internet, now and in the near future...

I don't know anyone who wears a tie anymore. I don't know what century you are working in but I haven't seen a tie on anyone in years. You must be still working on IBM 360's and COBOL.

Your biggest constraints are again going to be the team dynamic thing. What takes 30 seconds to discuss right away or grabbing a few folks into a conference room now takes 10 minutes or become complex because DavidHoy is remote. Usually that offshore remote developer stuff works well when there are a group of developers in a remote location are working together on a feature in a consultancy setting, so having 3-4 developers in Kiev or Prague isn't a big deal. Their doing a stand-up is a PITA for them because of the timezone diff.

Also, you are going to have to be chained in a nice snug marina near civilization to get the bandwidth. Did we mention the whole VPN encryption issue? You might as well be in a condo.

Then there are the timezone issues between parties. Also GEOIP blocking etc if that is outside of VPN.

Your best bet is to dump this fantasy and get a real job skill instead of this white-collar metrosexual **** that passes for work. Go learn a service skill. That used to carry you far on the road. I cannot say it still does but waitering, bartending, nurse, carpenter, electrician, welder, musician etc is something that might carry you $$$. Again I cannot say. The world has changed.
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Old 31-08-2016, 10:15   #12
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Re: Satellite broadband internet, now and in the near future...

Quote:
Originally Posted by zboss View Post
BTW - no one here is trying to discourage you. Just point at the reality.

No doubt, working remotely on a boat can put your job in jeopardy at worst and at best make it very difficult to advance - regardless of how fancy your communications are.

The worst part is having to find yourself back in an office! "What? I need to wear a tie?" What is a tie? While I have been very selective with who I reveal "my secret" to, I've had to let a few very trust worthy individuals in on it because you do need to associate with a team that will keep your secret and cover for you when things go badly. So, you may want to give some forethought to who those team members are and start slowly working them into the idea of working remote.

Also, some companies have a culture or remote work that may be accepting of remote work within the context of you doing it over broadband from your home vs doing it broadband from your boat. I've never understood why it makes such a difference but apparently working from Starbucks is different form working from your boat in the caribbean . Then, there are companies that don't have official remote work policies that are oblivious of the remote work problems that occasionally arise and therefore (quite surprisingly) end up being very flexible with the arrangement at the managerial level until something comes up and then its "we think we are going to rescind the remote work opportunities" from the executive group.

I'm planning on quitting my full time IT job and going to contracting maybe end of next year. I'd rather "be on" for three months at a time in a stable location then spend the next 9 months sailing, just because of these issues.
The company I work for has a pretty good remote work policy, and we have lots of people already doing just that. None of them from a boat in the Caribbean, at least to my knowledge, so I may be the first. Certainly, there will be challenges, but I have at least 2-3 years to prepare, and figure out the best strategy. I'd go right now if I could, but my wife has a few years to go as a teacher to fully vest her pension.

And what is this "tie" thing you mention?!? ;-)

-David
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Old 31-08-2016, 10:23   #13
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Re: Satellite broadband internet, now and in the near future...

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Originally Posted by SaltyMonkey View Post
. . .
Also, you are going to have to be chained in a nice snug marina near civilization to get the bandwidth. Did we mention the whole VPN encryption issue? You might as well be in a condo.
You need to be within 5 miles or so of land, but in most parts of the world you do not by any means need to be near a city or certainly not in a marina. Where I am, 20mbs up and down is available everywhere, which is enough bandwidth to stream BBC News while having a videoconference with whiteboard on another screen, plus downloading your Navionic chart updates, while the crew is watching Youtube and doing their own things on their own devices. LTE is a beautiful thing. I bet it's no different in most of the rest of the world by now. Boy the world has moved on since a T1 line was considered a big pipe suitable to run a whole office

VPN is a problem in some places, and that would be a big problem for me, but in Northern Europe at least it's not a problem. YMMV.
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Old 31-08-2016, 10:25   #14
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Re: Satellite broadband internet, now and in the near future...

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Originally Posted by SaltyMonkey View Post
Your best bet is to dump this fantasy and get a real job skill instead of this white-collar metrosexual **** that passes for work. Go learn a service skill. That used to carry you far on the road. I cannot say it still does but waitering, bartending, nurse, carpenter, electrician, welder, musician etc is something that might carry you $$$. Again I cannot say. The world has changed.
Get out of bed on the wrong side, SaltyMonkey? ;-)

And I used to work in COBOL on an IBM360 mainframe, but that was 30+ years ago.

Your comments about team dynamics and communications are very valid, but there are ways to deal with them. We already do this at my job, having people working solo and in groups all around the world. Yes, there are challenges, but they are not insurmountable. And I have a few years to work them out before I go off chasing the dream. And if I find it to be a fantasy, as you eloquently put it, then I quit the job and just cruise...

-David
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Old 31-08-2016, 10:31   #15
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Re: Satellite broadband internet, now and in the near future...

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And I used to work in COBOL on an IBM360 mainframe, but that was 30+ years ago.
I can tell by your thinking process...
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