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Old 04-04-2016, 19:44   #1
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Satellite broadband "hot-spot" boat

I was wondering if experienced cruisers could give me some feedback on an idea I'm mulling over. It seems there is a strong desire for many cruisers to generate income while cruising. Telecommuting would be perfect, but broadband internet is too limited and/or expensive. What if a small boat was rigged with cruise-ship level internet access (MTN Networks or something like it) which was then broadcast via a long range wifi router to nearby cruisers (15 mile range) for a service fee? Basically a high powered floating hotspot. Throw a website up to show where the hotspot-boat is and where it's going, so boats can stay close if they want access. Stay in popular areas. Users get high performance at a fraction of the price without hardware. Thoughts?
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Old 04-04-2016, 20:19   #2
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Re: Satellite broadband "hot-spot" boat

In open water it's not a bad idea, but it would be difficult to make any money. Near shore or in an anchorage you would likely be breaking a slew of local laws. It would obviously depend very heavily on where you are, but since telecommunications are generally tightly regulated I would expect pretty serious reprecutions.

In the USVI it would probably be fine, show up near Cuba and you might wind up in prison for the next 30 years.
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Old 04-04-2016, 20:47   #3
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Re: Satellite broadband "hot-spot" boat

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In open water it's not a bad idea, but it would be difficult to make any money. Near shore or in an anchorage you would likely be breaking a slew of local laws. It would obviously depend very heavily on where you are, but since telecommunications are generally tightly regulated I would expect pretty serious reprecutions.

In the USVI it would probably be fine, show up near Cuba and you might wind up in prison for the next 30 years.
I was thinking that no (US) telecommunications laws would be violated since the hardware components already exist and are FCC compliant. It would simply be a cruise-ship broadband network linked to an off the shelf wifi router. Now Cuba would be good to avoid...
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Old 04-04-2016, 23:00   #4
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Re: Satellite broadband "hot-spot" boat

So long as you are in US waters then it would be fine, but I don't think you could ever pay for the sattelite uplink and US cruisers have 3G. If you are in foreign waters then US telecom laws don't apply, the laws of the country you are in apply instead.
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Old 04-04-2016, 23:03   #5
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Re: Satellite broadband "hot-spot" boat

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I was thinking that no (US) telecommunications laws would be violated since the hardware components already exist and are FCC compliant. It would simply be a cruise-ship broadband network linked to an off the shelf wifi router. Now Cuba would be good to avoid...
Are you going to charge money for the "service" of providing this WiFi hotspot? If so,
Do/will you have a local/state/territory (or whatever) business license?
Do/will you have a registered business tax ID number?

If not, will you be willing to run the legal risk(s)? {Pirate station!}

If not, are/will you like to take on the IRS (or whatever gov't tax collection agency of whatever country)?

It's one thing to help out a few folk in the anchorage, short term, for a few beers or a couple of bucks - or just 'cause they're nice! Hey... I've done/will in future do that with my WiFi gear & long-range antenna. Quite another to make a business go of it.

Don't get me wrong! Lots of cruisers (me included) would appreciate dropping the hook and having a friendly fellow boater help them get on line for a few days. You know, that "We made it & we're safe!" contact email. But the locals might think that your little business idea is taking customers/profit from a LOCAL business entity. Sort'a gets frowned upon in certain areas.

Word to the wise... or at least something to think about. And a suggestion: check the local/regional laws in the area you wish to set up your ground station... or water station, as it were. If you choose to proceed... Good Luck & hope it works out for you!

James
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Old 05-04-2016, 06:07   #6
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Re: Satellite broadband "hot-spot" boat

Yeah, what he said. Just because the equipment you are using is FCC compliant, that doesn't mean that you can start up a business selling internet access without all of the appropriate business permits, licenses, and insurance. And I think that if you check, that equipment is FCC compliant for personal use only. They are probably going to have an issue with you selling over-the-air services without a license.

So, it would be like any under-the-table business. You have to weigh the odds of getting caught versus the penalties if you do.

It's unfortunate in many ways, but it is the world that we live in. Just because you have a good idea for a service that people might want, that doesn't mean you can go out and offer it to them. Governments nowadays--all governments--want to get their fingers into the pie before you are allowed to make a profit.
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Old 05-04-2016, 08:53   #7
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Re: Satellite broadband "hot-spot" boat

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Originally Posted by denverd0n View Post
Yeah, what he said. Just because the equipment you are using is FCC compliant, that doesn't mean that you can start up a business selling internet access without all of the appropriate business permits, licenses, and insurance. And I think that if you check, that equipment is FCC compliant for personal use only. They are probably going to have an issue with you selling over-the-air services without a license.

So, it would be like any under-the-table business. You have to weigh the odds of getting caught versus the penalties if you do.

It's unfortunate in many ways, but it is the world that we live in. Just because you have a good idea for a service that people might want, that doesn't mean you can go out and offer it to them. Governments nowadays--all governments--want to get their fingers into the pie before you are allowed to make a profit.
Of course you can go out and offer it to them, you just have to follow the laws of the country you are in. Personally I think I could make a lot of money on rapid truck deliveries, it's just the stupid government that won't let me send 18 wheelers racing down the interstate at 110mph... Stupid governement regulations keeping me down!
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Old 05-04-2016, 09:50   #8
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Re: Satellite broadband "hot-spot" boat

Such a pity. I think if executed well it could be reasonable business until technology renders the concept obsolete.
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Old 05-04-2016, 20:38   #9
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Re: Satellite broadband "hot-spot" boat

We have come across several boats doing exactly that in our travels from the Dutch Antilles to South Africa to Malaysia. Average charge from our records was about US$10 per month with no-one applying download limits. Never advertised widely but word of mouth seemed to work well for them.
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Old 12-04-2016, 23:30   #10
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Re: Satellite broadband "hot-spot" boat

I work on commercial maritime satcom systems for a living, the short answer is it's basically impossible, unless you wanted to burn more money than you could ever make, then still, it would require something much larger than a "small boat." (I don't like to say things are impossible, but this idea would be a good candidate.)

That said, the technology for RF satellite communications is already pretty mature, so if it were possible (which it isn't, just getting a 15 NM range with WiFi would probably require directional antennas on both vessels, a way to for each vessel to track the main vessel, multiple directional antennas on the main vessel if 15NM radius coverage is needed, dealing with multi-path interference, mounting of antennas in such a way for 15 NM LOS it be possible, and on and on and on) I don't see any new technology making such a business obsolete any time soon. The maritime broadband environment for individual users will probably still be costing 400 to 1000 a month for fixed plans for the foreseeable future.

Some low speed plans are reasonably priced though, about 100 a month if you buy the gear, which gives you slightly better than dialupish speeds to browse, check email, etc. Some are limited, some are not.

Maybe when optical sat-com comes around, many of the problems with coverage and bandwidth/power limitations will ease, but that would open up it's own unique set of issues though.

The cheapest broadbandish type of connection available is probably still an air-card or mobile hot-spot when in cell range.
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Old 13-04-2016, 05:31   #11
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Re: Satellite broadband "hot-spot" boat

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Bill.
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