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Old 28-08-2019, 09:34   #1
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Most reliable internet option for cruising in Caribbean

Hey guys I'm looking to do some cruising in the Caribbean mostly but I need to be able to have at least have email and light internet access every single day. For me, reliability and affordability are paramount, would cheap satellite options like iridium go be the best bet? Is cell phone 3g/4g coverage in the Caribbean reliable? I'm assuming it might be decent near the coasts but not so good offshore... Is that a correct assessment? Thank you for any and all advice!!
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Old 28-08-2019, 10:58   #2
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Re: Most reliable internet option for cruising in Caribbean

I know this is not going to help you much, but it will be informative and perhaps help with the perspective of what offshore internet service can cost. I love this guy's channel and he put this out a while back...

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Old 28-08-2019, 11:28   #3
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Re: Most reliable internet option for cruising in Caribbean

Glassgow,
Reliable, cheap, available (everyday)?
Pick Two!

Reliable, cheap, and available (all the time, 24/7)?
Pick one!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Glassgow22 View Post
Hey guys I'm looking to do some cruising in the Caribbean mostly but I need to be able to have at least have email and light internet access every single day. For me, reliability and affordability are paramount, would cheap satellite options like iridium go be the best bet? Is cell phone 3g/4g coverage in the Caribbean reliable? I'm assuming it might be decent near the coasts but not so good offshore... Is that a correct assessment? Thank you for any and all advice!!
Sorry about the attempt at humor....it's just that this topic comes up all the time...

You'll find many threads here with all the gory details, including the costs involved....

But, in brief...
You must invest some money and/or effort to accomplish this....yes, it is doable, but your success will ultimately be determined by how much money/effort you are willing to invest....

--- cellular coverage (in general) is good only in populate areas / close to shore....but, reliability and good bandwidth (even in these areas) will require you to have an external cellular antenna connected to, an internal cellular amp (Wilson / Weboost) / your phone / dongle...

--- paid wi-fi coverage can be good in spots (fewer each year) where it is available.... but, reliability / connectivity (even in these areas) will require you to have an external wi-fi antenna / client / modem (Groove or Bullet HP) connected to, an internal wi-fi router / your computer...

--- cheap sat comm gear (like Iridium Go, handheld Iridium sat-phone, or handheld INMARSAT phone) is VERY LOW SPEED DATA....2400 baud / 2.4kb....(that's about 20 times slower than dial-up modems of 20 years ago! and 100's of times slower than 3G!)
There is no "internet" available here with this, just VERY LOW SPEED data, SMS/text, emails...
And, the costs of equipment and air time will be much higher than the other two options, above.

--- real sat comm terminals....they work great! whether L-band / worldwide coverage, or Ku/Ka band regional VSAT service....
But, these are not cheap in any description! (think $4k min for equipment....and many $100's/month airtime, min....on average most users of these systems spend $10k - $40k for equip, and $1000/month for services) But, the good news is that anyone that actually needs these systems / services, expenses it all off as a cost-of-doing-business, so there is really no end-user cost issues (someone else is paying for it, whether it be a big corp or the clients themselves)


As I said there are plenty of details here abouts....the above is just the brief skinny.
Hope this helps.

John
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Old 28-08-2019, 11:33   #4
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Re: Most reliable internet option for cruising in Caribbean

Another option people overlook is SSB radio technology, which operates on HAM radio freqs. There are HAM radio stations out there that have modem devices that allow you to pass data traffic back and forth over the SSB freqs and patch into, and pull from, the internet.

Benefits:
- no monthly subscription fees (satcom data plans are $$$$)
- extended ranges allow for pulling data underway at sea

Drawbacks:
- Getting a good signal can be a challenge at times.
- Slower than what most people are used to concerning the net. (think dial up modem speeds)
- Requires FCC license to operate on HAM freqs

Look into this thread:

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/...tc-133496.html

He goes into a bit, and it's an option I rarely see mentioned.
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Old 28-08-2019, 13:53   #5
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Re: Most reliable internet option for cruising in Caribbean

Dan,
I'm sure you're well intentioned, but your info is in error.

FYI, I am a big proponent of HF radio comms...that is my "stickie" you referenced...
And while, HF radio is GREAT and the data connectivity possibilities are there for everyone that has an HF radio, the speeds are very slow and there are only two systems working for business / commercial purposes (Sailmail and Crusiemail) which it seems likely that Glassgow requires.


1) Whether by ham radio or maritime HF ("SSB" radio), or by LOW-speed sat comm (IridiumGo, handheld sat phones, etc.), there is no internet access available.
The bandwidths / speeds are not capable of internet surfing....only very low-speed data / emails...
Dan, please note that these are VERY LOW SPEED data, that is 20+ times SLOWER than dial-up!!



2) Email connectivity via ham radio is via the WINLINK system (whether by PACTORIII modem or the even slower WINMOR), is for non-commercial / non-business / personal communications....this is not only governed by int'l law, but is strictly enforced by WINLINK itself and the entire ham radio community worldwide.
This is for personal / hobby communications, and for safety/public service support communications, and ham radio (whether voice or data) is not a cheap way to communicate!
This should never be thought of, nor recommended as a low-cost / free alternative to commercial / professional services...

Email connectivity via HF Maritime radio ("marine SSB") is via Sailmail (or Cruisemail) and is specifically designed for both personal and business communications....but, as it is a private non-profit system, you are limited to 90 minutes of connection time per week, for your annual $250 dues...
PACTORIII data rates are typically 2400 - 4800 baud, sailmail also has PACTORIV data rates, which are typically double that....


Dan, again, please note that these are VERY LOW SPEED data, that is 20+ times SLOWER than dial-up!!



3) Also, fyi....the fact is that data comms via PACTOR is damned reliable and good signals are actually the norm!



Dan, I'm not sure where you got the erroneous info, but certainly not from my stickie.

Fair winds.

John
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Old 28-08-2019, 14:01   #6
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Re: Most reliable internet option for cruising in Caribbean

And there you have it.

Thanks for the intel.
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Old 29-08-2019, 08:59   #7
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Re: Most reliable internet option for cruising in Caribbean

Cell phone coverage on most of the EC islands is better than southeastern California, we notice cell coverage up to 15 messages offshore. Wi-Fi coverage is spotty, locations with a lot of cruisers usually have better coverage. Unlimited data plans are very limited. We initially used a weather proof WI-Fi antenna from Port Networks to get coverage from free hit spots in popular anchorage. As the free sites dropped off, we bought an unlocked dongle through Amazon and bought a pay as you go data chip on each island.
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Old 29-08-2019, 08:59   #8
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Re: Most reliable internet option for cruising in Caribbean

Google Fi is the way to go. Works everywhere all the time and the same cost as in the US. We are actively cruising the world and it just connects in every country we've sailed to. Check it out.
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Old 29-08-2019, 09:06   #9
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Re: Most reliable internet option for cruising in Caribbean

Get Google Fi. Buy Google Fi phone such as Pixel 3XL or a Fi SIM card for an iPhone.
Coupled with a cell phone signal extender works great over 99% of the Caribbean. Depending on cell tower location you can get coverage up to. 20 miles offshore with extender.

Cost is a nominal $85 per month and works eveywhere without replacing or buying SIM cards at every country. Uses multiple cellular services from 2G to 4G LTE throughout the world.

I am currently in Grenada and Google Fi gave us very good coverage all the way from the US. I have an SSB, pretty unusable. I have a Garmin Inreach ($25/ month) with Earthmate App that works well for email and text messaging through Iridium when and if cell service not available. These two provide all the text and email capability you would conceivably need.

Streaming video is a different beast - need Wi-Fi. Although Google Fi will do well when connected to a 4G LTE mobile signal. Burns through bandwidth pretty quickly however.

Good luck.
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Old 29-08-2019, 12:57   #10
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Re: Most reliable internet option for cruising in Caribbean

In my experience, cell coverage and use throughout the Caribbean is the most reliable and fastest compared to wi-fi or any other methods. You can either get a local SIM card and buy a local plan, or use your existing cell phone. We have AT&T from the U.S. and pay only $10/day and can use our existing plan which is basically limitless. Cell coverage between island nations is usually seamless so I've not needed to rely on any other sources for reliable internet, etc.
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Old 05-09-2019, 08:05   #11
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Re: Most reliable internet option for cruising in Caribbean

GLASSGOW22, are you a Brit? if yes get a Vodafone Global Roaming plus account in UK and then use your UK 4G allowance in the Caribbean and elsewhere. Coverage is pretty good, signal enhancers are good but unnecessary if you are able to suffer some down time.

We use SSB comms - Sailmail for offshore and the signal at sea is normally good for emails, weather etc. In ports the signal is normally degraded as you would expect with lots of masts and interference.
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