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Old 17-03-2019, 12:32   #1
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Glomex Webboat 4G Plus Users' Experiences?

Is anyone using, or know someone who is using, the Glomex Webboat 4G Plus system?

We are about to do an extended cruise so I am in the process of upgrading my 11 year old MFD and AP and 22 year old multi-display. And there is the internet system to consider...

For the past 4 years I have been using a wifi system that includes a Groove 52HPn wifi antenna and a Mikrotik wireless router. The system did not live up to my expectations because it was usually a PIA to either find an open hotspot or if we had a password, configuring the settings to connect to an open/secure hotspot was problematical. After reaching our anchorage, I usually don't feel like firing up the laptop and doing a system configuration on a consistently finicky system. More often than not, we end up tethering off a cell phone to do our internet things.

In comparison, several years ago I installed a Vesper XB-8000 AIS transponder and it has exceeded my expectations. The AIS data fed reliably to the old C80 MFD and it provided reliable wireless data to the Android. The anchor alarm was a bonus that I found to be more reliable than the free smartphone apps. I also like the hard wired proximity/anchor alarm that is loud enough to wake anyone.

I was considering installing a new cellular modem and wifi booster antenna so we could use a sim card/data plan on the boat's wifi system but then I encountered a friend who is fitting out his boat at my marina/yard. He had just installed a Glomex Webboat 4G Plus. He showed me the smartphone app for it and its functionality. While my android cannot receive wifi signal at the yard, his Webboat is getting 4/5 bars and the smartphone app seems solid. The concept of essentially plug and play system is appealing and it reminds me of how well the Vesper has been doing its job with AIS for the past several years.

I have not been able to find real world reviews of the unit by actual users. I will be able to get that info from my my marina friend at some point but if there are any users, please report your experiences with that system.

When you look at the Android app, it shows 1000 installs and a 9 ratings that average 3/5, but there are no written reviews.

I would really appreciate any comments based on actual use of the Glomex Webboat Plus.

thanks, Jim
www.bluespray.com
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Old 18-03-2019, 07:26   #2
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Re: Glomex Webboat 4G Plus Users' Experiences?

For completeness, since I replied on your Facebook post, I will post the same reply here..

FIrst thing is to understand your crusing area. From your description you aren't planning to leave North America. The Glomex devices are not global, the use older generation cellular modems (Category 3 LTE, 100mbps max speed) so they sell two versions. The US version works with US and Canada carriers while the EU version works in Europe, Asia, etc. (Note that the newer cellular modems some manufacturers are using are LTE Advanced Category 6, 300 mbps max speed, and Global support)

As long as you are staying within the regional bounds you indicated, then the US version of the Glomex will work. If you are going to go further afield, then you may find it useless.

Second thing is that while an android app is nice, or iOS, you may not want to be forced to use an app when a simple web interface that can be accessed from any browser could work, and you'd be able to use that from your Android or a PC/Mac, Chromebook, etc. As long as the Interface is really easy to use of course.

One of the advantages of having a dedicated on-board WiFi network is the ability to link all of the WiFi devices together onto a single network (MFD, Vesper AIS, laptops, TV, tablets, phones) so they can 1.) access Internet when needed (think firmware updates) and 2.) communicate with each other WHILE accessing the Internet (like pulling AIS data into a tablet app while simultaneously downloading weather gribs). The Webboat has a WiFi network that allows for this, but it may not have the controls you may want to prevent extraneous data usage by devices. Depending on what other devices you have on the boat, you may want to lock down Internet access for some devices, allowing it for others. Or even allowing all devices to access Internet when using Shore WiFi, but only allowing Internet for important devices when using Cellular, meanwile all of the devices can still share data amongst each other at all times. The Glomex makes the network but doesn't seem to have any filtering features like that. But this may or may not matter depending on what devices you have on your boat.

Lastly, while Glomex does have some physical ethernet ports, it doesn't seem able to connect additional Internet sources to it.. As an example, if, some day, you wanted to add a satellite terminal and add it to the boat's WiFi network, making it part of the failover sequence, the Glomex wouldn't really support that. Again, depends on your plans and needs.

I personally have not used/tested the Glomex WebBoat4G, and as I mentioned I have not heard any bad things either. But I personally believe some of the missing features are important (at least to some cruisers) so I have to mention them.

If you want a recommendation specific to your actual needs we can discuss a bit further what you want to be able to do and I can give you some options. I am a retailer with certain biases, but I always try to give people accurate advice even if it means they aren't buying something I have.
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Old 19-03-2019, 10:47   #3
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Re: Glomex Webboat 4G Plus Users' Experiences?

Thank you very much for your thoughtful reply Richard.

At this point we have multiple forms of communication including an Icom 706MK2g and pactor modem and plan to pick up an In Reach so we do have email, weather and tracking functionality and redundancy worldwide. Fortunately, our "plans" are subject to change. If the Webboat makes sense, then it will probably be out done by something better in a year or so, as technology marches forward so if we were to need the EU cellular standard later, we could change. Also, the Webboat uses a modem internal to the dome, which might be replaced if that made sense at that time.

Our experiences with the Groove wifi booster antenna have been mixed. It can be more finicky than my ham rig and always requires tweaking after we put the hook down in a new anchorage. The simple web interface has not been consistently reliable. We often end up tethering to a cell phone for what we need on the internet when we are coastal or on the Chesapeake.

We are exploring options and right now the Webboat looks promising. The cost has also come down considerably recently. I am always reluctant to upgrade or change systems unless or until there are some real world reviews to consider. Practical Sailor comes to mind but individual user reports would also help.

I have not heard bad things about the Webboat either, but I have also not heard good reports except for my friend at the boat yard and he just finished installing his system so he has not had time to report on it yet. The mini-demo of his system reminded me of our Vexper XB-8000 AIS system that has worked great for a couple of years now. That system is technical and flexible but so far, it just works!

It is odd that of the 1000+ android webboat app users, 9 have reported a rating of 3/5 but no one provided any text description of their experience with the app or with the webboat system. You mentioned on FB that there are no reviews for the Apple version and that is strange too.

It would be great if Gomex could give you a Webboat 4G Plus system to test, if you were interested in doing so of course. Or maybe they could give one to one of the many great cruising Youtubers. Seems like a good way advertise inexpensively on this side of the pond!
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Old 22-03-2019, 07:00   #4
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Re: Glomex Webboat 4G Plus Users' Experiences?

Inside the "Glomex Webboat 4G Plus" is a Teltonika RUT500 router, four squares of unetched circuit board at right angles to each other acting as antennae, and a few wires connecting the router to the red LED and the SIM card socket on the outside of the plastic dome that covers it all.

As a guess, it would cost perhaps 200 euro to buy that kit new on eBay, minus the plastic dome which is admittedly a boutique item.

The RUT500 is supplied with customised firmware that adds some branding and boaty references in its rearranged web-based admin interface. While it initially ran that custom firmware, the unit itself went up and down like a yo-yo (crashed). I was afraid I'd wear out the 1" plastic mounting socket at the bottom of the dome from taking it off so often to check what in the name of everything that's unholy is going on with it. After our third or fourth interaction, when it became clear the Support Team were probably the same guys that wrote the custom firmware, I flashed the router with a standard Teltonika RUT500 image. That at least provided stability, if not quite the same 4G range and performance that my Samsung Galaxy mobile was capable of delivering with the same SIM, sitting right next to me at the chart table.

On the topic of mobiles, a downloadable simplistic mobile app is seemingly designed as a management option for the true technophobe, but it crashed so much that its purpose remained somewhat mysterious to me.

It cost me 900 euro to have those experiences. Perhaps the information may be useful to others. Pro tip: don't sail off to another country before checking whether it all works.

(Since it is an obvious question under the circumstances, I am a C/C++ systems programmer, and relatively well-versed in software and networking matters. PEBKAC is unlikely, though of course they all say that )
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Old 22-03-2019, 12:49   #5
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Re: Glomex Webboat 4G Plus Users' Experiences?

Well that review wasn't as positive as I would have liked to read. I did look at the FCC filings and saw the router unit inside, upgrading would require quite a bit of surgery and possibly not work with the custom firmware.

All that said, the router is OpenWRT based, which is powerful but not the most user friendly. I've run into several products on the market that are leveraging OpenWRT and they all have User Experience deficiencies in one way or another. Some of the vendors (like Glomex) write a smartphone app to make it easier, hiding the OpenWRT running on the router by having you just use the app, but of course the app then has to talk to the router's OS and sometimes that becomes flaky.

My admittedly biased advice is to go with the MBR-550 from Wave. It's powerful, very easy to use, and works well in my testing and my customers testing. I have one on my own boat, and use one in my car/RV, travelling, etc. It combines my Iridium satellite and my WiFi extender with the built-in cellular and manages the whole shebang. No smartphone app, just a easy-to-use web page you can access from any device. And it has global cellular support. The only real downside, aside from the overall cost, is that you have to run two cables above decks from the router, one ethernet cable to your WiFi extender, and one coax cable to an exterior cellular antenna. But those exterior antennas are much smaller than the Glomex dome, and you don't later have to worry about running additional ethernet cables from the exterior dome down to the boat for more advanced connections later, all additional connections go to the MBR-550 itself which is mounted below decks. It can be powered directly from 12VDC or from an Inverter using the included AC adapter.
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Old 22-03-2019, 15:24   #6
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Re: Glomex Webboat 4G Plus Users' Experiences?

In the parts of the Central and Eastern Med where I've been sailing, free wifi is essentially nonexistent. Even paid-for wifi is generally oversubscribed and unusable, as in marinas and restaurants. Altogether, it makes the (external) wifi capabilities of these units quite redundant in my own situation, leaving LTE/4G/3G as the only option.

Personally, I think the dilemma boils down to whether the router inside these "boaty" offerings can provide significantly better LTE/4G/3G performance than a mobile phone from the likes of Samsung or Apple. In my case the answer was NO. A Teltonika RUT500, with the funny bits of copper plate wired up in what appeared to be a MIMO configuration, did NOT provide internet access to the rest of the boat as well as my Samsung S7 running a hotspot.

From subsequent research, these Teltonika routers are typically used in industrial installations such as vending machines and large aircon units that require remote monitoring, hence the need for dual SIMs, DIN-mounting options, and specialised VPN capabilities. My understanding is that in that context Teltonika have a good reputation, and if I was looking for telemetry for my next chicken soup vending machine design I would certainly consider one.

For cruising on a sailboat, however, I'll be sticking with mobile phones for internet access. Lesson learned.

For anyone still considering one of these "boaty" plastic domes containing a hugely overpriced off-the-shelf router, have a look at a Teltonika RUT240 instead. It's in the vicinity of €150, compact, and can do literally everything the Glomex Webboat 4G can, which is not surprising since the RUT240 is the upgraded version of a RUT500.

Buying a Teltonika router directly, sans the €700 plastic dome, also means you will not be subjected to the amateurish coding attempts of people who create custom "boaty" firmware for routers. Since they cannot possibly eke out any additional LTE/4G/3G performance from the hardware, you might as well go with the standard Teltonika firmware which is far more polished and robust.
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Old 16-05-2020, 10:33   #7
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Re: Glomex Webboat 4G Plus Users' Experiences?

Sorry to wake up an old thread, but maybe someone is interested in my experiences of the Glomex Webboat lite. I bought this unit one year ago and have had a few issues, I agree on what's being said earlier in the thread that there has been strange behaviour/stability issues. Sometimes a sim card has worked in my phone and not in the Glomex, sometime it has suddenly dropped the connection. Performance wise I had hoped for better performance in both wi-fi (device to device) and 4G/LTE. But the antennas are not the best and the unit has quite weak hardware. It works ok, but for the price you can expect more.

The Glomex Webboat lite consists of:

1 Teltonika RUT240 cat4 router with single sim
2 LTE antennas of brand 2J (2JP0624p)
1 Wifi antenna (2jF0102P)

Approx. price of this hw is 170 dollars.

I like the concept of having everything embedded in one weatherproof unit. However, had I known what I know today I would probably have built a system myself. This system would have been a bit more expensive but would have outperformed the Glomex. I would have bought:

-Teltonika rutx11 - dual sim cat6 LTE router ( or similar)
-LTE Antennas - 2 Poynting Omni-291 or 1 Poynting OMNI-402 (two antennas embedded into one unit)
-Wi-fi antenna - not that important for me, so anyone would do.
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Old 24-07-2020, 10:36   #8
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Re: Glomex Webboat 4G Plus Users' Experiences?

My conclusion in reading this thread is that individual cell phones as hot spots are the best solution for Internet access.

1. WiFi is not commonly available and can still be used by individual devices directly.
2. Large external antennae do not deliver significant advantages for cellular.
3. Centralized systems such the Glomex weBBoat 4G or the WaveWifi Tidal Wave are unreliable and difficult to use and cause more trouble than they are worth.
4. Multiple cell connections, one per phone, will provide better performance and better pricing.

We will be living aboard for the next 6 months with our middle school aged children doing online learning and cruising Florida and the Bahamas.

Do you agree with just using mobile phones as hotspots as our Internet access solution? I'm willing to invest $$$ in a centralized system but only if it provides better performance reliably.
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Old 24-07-2020, 11:04   #9
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Re: Glomex Webboat 4G Plus Users' Experiences?

I'm a bit biased, however I do have extensive experience on my own as well as through my customers...

First, do you or will you have a Smart TV on board, or a media player like Roku, etc? Do you or will you have an MFD with WiFi support that can download updates, new charts, or weather data (e.g.: Raymarine Axiom, etc).

Using a phone hotspot is fine for a single computer to get access to the Internet, but what about everything else? Are you really going to want to go into the MFD, TV, Roku, 5 computers and tablets to reconfigure the WiFi connection to whatever mobile phone hotspot you are using at the time? And what if you want to stream online or downloaded media from a tablet to the TV over Wifi? The more you want to actually use the smartTV, MFD, Roku, etc features, the more you will find you need a common, centralized on board WiFi network that they can all connect to and communicate with each other across.

Hotspot data on phones is also limited. Depending on the carrier, etc you may have "unlimited" data on the phone, but little to no hotspot data included, or limited to 5GB per month per device, etc. In the Bahamas, are you going to leave your phones on your US plan? Or swap out SIM cards in all the devices to BTC/ALIV?

Once you have a centralized onboard WiFi network, you can internet enable that network with just one SIM card. Now all your devices can talk to each other AND the Internet simultaneously. You can do route planning AND see your AIS targets at the same time, you can stream a Netflix show on the SmartTV while also using the lower cost ALIV data to place a WiFi call back home from your cell phone. There are myriad situations where having an Internet enabled on board WiFi network is beneficial.

So then you just have to decided how far to get into it. To respond directly to your notes..

1.) WiFi is hit or miss. It's available in many places, and it is very good in some places. It can also be very poor. If you think you will be in marinas or harbors often, having access to shore WiFi when it's available is nice. Is cellular data more available and generally faster? Yes.. But sometimes the WiFi is cheaper and faster, and sometimes the only thing available. If you were to spend money on a full cellular enabled wifi network, etc. The cost of a WiFi extender is not a huge problem.

2.) NOT True! Properly installed high altitude antennas with low loss cable will give you much better performance compared to a small antenna inside a boat. but you have the physics of cable involved. We have customers who have zero signal on their phones while simultaneously streaming Netflix over their cellular router with a spreader mounted antenna. It all depends on what equipment you buy, and how it's installed. There are also devices that can be mounted masthead on a sailboat with NO coax cables, providing maximum performance and range with none of the drawbacks of antenna cables. But at a more premium price.

3.) Also not true. Tidal wave is simple and very high performance. It works very well and dead simple to use. But that is also one of the most expensive options. Glomex, Shakespeare, etc are all very limited in performance and coverage because they have cheaper cellular modems with limited support for the cellular bands used around the world. Wave also makes a cheaper option, the MBR-550 which is very simple to use and very reliable in our experience. I also work with some customers to use certain Peplink products which have advantages over other options at the cost of some simplicity, but nothing major. A customer I worked with this month deployed a peplink AND wave wifi based system we designed on his Hylas 54 and had high speed LTE, with full 4 bars, non-stop 10 miles offshore crossing between US and Canada, didn't even drop to 3 bars.

4.) Performance is highly variable. It really depends on many factors, and then there is the convenience factor. Pricing also high depends. If you are referring to buying a system for the boat vs buying nothing, then yes, using your phones as hotspots will be cheaper up front. But depending on your service plans and how you use the data, you may find you are spending more money on data, and more time making things work, and more time switching WiFi networks to make things work on the boat in particular ways.

There is no "wrong" answer, but a well designed and installed cellular enabled onboard WiFi network is better in so many ways than a bunch of phone hotspots.

If the 6 month trip is all you plan, and you don't have smart TVs, or WiFi enabled MFDs, a wifi-enabled AIS device, a desire to use laptop navigation software, etc.. Then a couple computers that periodically access a smartphone hotspot (with appropriate data plans) may be just the ticket.

But think long and hard about what you actually want to be able to do with respect to Internet access, WiFi, etc.

Just my $0.02 as a sailor, having cruising with kids on board for 18 months, and a reseller and consultant for others doing the same.

Richard

Quote:
Originally Posted by johnkeagy View Post
My conclusion in reading this thread is that individual cell phones as hot spots are the best solution for Internet access.

1. WiFi is not commonly available and can still be used by individual devices directly.
2. Large external antennae do not deliver significant advantages for cellular.
3. Centralized systems such the Glomex weBBoat 4G or the WaveWifi Tidal Wave are unreliable and difficult to use and cause more trouble than they are worth.
4. Multiple cell connections, one per phone, will provide better performance and better pricing.

We will be living aboard for the next 6 months with our middle school aged children doing online learning and cruising Florida and the Bahamas.

Do you agree with just using mobile phones as hotspots as our Internet access solution? I'm willing to invest $$$ in a centralized system but only if it provides better performance reliably.
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Old 24-07-2020, 12:52   #10
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Re: Glomex Webboat 4G Plus Users' Experiences?

Richard:

Thank you for this thoughtful response. I think I've figured out who you are: https://www.sea-tech.com/contact-us/. I'll give you a call.

John
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