Mingat's right to try and clarify the question, which has two parts
: (i) where are you trying to be the US, Europe
, Indonesia, the Coconut Milk Run, 2K nM from land or in an anchorage with land on 3 sides? and (ii) what do you want to be able to do - plain text emails and maybe grib files is a different proposition from eg uploading pix to a blog, or exchanging large docs as part of a business.
To use us as an example: RG doesn't do a great deal of long-distance offshore, and when we do we're not that bothered with email
. We are primarily coastal sailing in the western Med at the moment. We do do management consultancy from the boat so exchanging large documents and high-level reliability
really matter for us, and our business (which we own) therefore bears the cost.
So we have a UK based Vodafone 3G USB dongle with a contract
that covers all of Europe
. We use wifi when we can find it, but it is not common to find unlocked, free wifi (our experience covers UK, Spain
, Southern France
and north-western Italy
, as well as in Hong Kong
and NZ) and when we do it is often a poor signal. The dongle is not the cheapest option but it has proved extremely reliable over several years, and we have used it for email and weather
up to 5 miles offshore. (Further off we rely on navtex and grib/weatherfax off the SSB
We also review our decisions annually and have changed suppliers/dongles and contracts on occasion to get a better deal - though in fact we have found the threat of switching has usually resulted in very good offers from existing suppliers. (Not always - which is why we're not buying
data or indeed voice services from Orange any more.) We also when in a country for a long period buy a cheap
PAYG sim for voice services. All our handsets are unlocked, but we do not currently use our voice handsets for data - we have done in the past and may do again but right now it's not worth it to us.
Our set up, and the advice above, is based on six years using only mobile broadband/3G (ie no permanent landline, and wifi if we can find it) for all our business, boating
and personal use, and fiddling with our choices and decisions on a really regular basis.
So for anyone thinking about internet access while on the water
, we always advise answering the first two questions - these will guide the quality you require, and then you can start pondering wifi availability in your cruising area/3G coverage/using internet cafes and all the associated costs - before you start throwing money at the problem!