I'm still struggling with this issue. Particularly since it was the main annoyance of my summer cruise
this year (which was pretty annoyance-free, however).
, I have a Ubiquiti Bullet with a good antenna
on my first spreader, connected to my nav table with Cat5e Ethernet. It wasn't working this summer, but I will fix it pretty soon. That will nail Wifi
-- if I get a decent Wifi connection, then I can share the connection throughout the boat
over my internal router.
But experience shows that you can't count on Wifi as your main Internet
connection when cruising. Marina WiFi is rarely of decent, or even acceptable quality, and you often have to register and pay every time. Sometimes you can get onto municipal free WiFi (in Roscoff, for example). Some regions have a strong commercial
WiFi provider with good service
-- Netabord in Northern France
, for example. But in other places, not. So using Wifi to connect is hit or miss.
So for a connection you can rely on -- and since I'm not retired, I must be connected, and I often have people on board who must be connected as well -- you really need to use the mobile telephone systems. Happily, data service
over mobile phone
networks improves by leaps and bounds. I remember cruising in SW Florida
in the 1990's and using a Sprint phone
connected with a $100 cable, which required giving modem
commands using a terminal window to get a 1200 baud connection to Compuserve, which I paid for by the minute. And being extremely grateful to have it! How the world has changed.
So here's what I'm looking at, and I'll be grateful for any thoughts or insights.
1. Permanently mounted outdoor router. I actually installed an antenna
pipe mount and pulled Cat 5e to my first spreader, anticipating installing one of these:
WiBE Pro | A revolution in 3G mobile broadband technology
This is a really quality piece of kit (with a price
to match, unfortunately). It has an ingenious antenna -- three direction high gain antennas pointing in different directions, with the router choosing the one with the strongest signal.
Unfortunately, it is not available in an LTE version, and I don't want to spend that kind of money
and be stuck with 3G.
So another variant would be something like this:
H685 LTE 4G Router | Proroute 3G and 4G Routers
This is very cool -- professional quality, reasonable price
(it's made for M2M applications), SMA antenna connections. Sadly no POE, and I don't have a wire pulled for separate power, but I think I can get around that. So I would need to put that in some kind of waterproof box, mount the antennas on it, and put it up on my spreader. I reckon that would work
pretty well. Although to change SIM cards, of course, I will have to go aloft.
2. Noelex Solution -- Battery
Powered Hot Spot on a Halyard
Something like this: Huawei E5776 4G LTE Cat4 Mobile WiFi Hotspot Test - Forum - Huawei Enterprise Business Forum
Which you can just put in a waterproof box and hoist up the mast
with a halyard
Of course, the battery
will run down after 10 hours. For that, one could hook up one of those supplemental power batteries
(20,000mah is available) inside the box. Or, use solar
which I think should make it more or less self-sustaining.
An external antenna could also be fitted to the outside of the waterproof box.
I reckon that the box could be mounted on the pushpit, where it would get a good signal for 90% of cases, especially with an external antenna, and would not need to be hauled up very often.
Downside: how will it behave, especially with a solar
panel, in wind
? Will it beat itself to death against the mast
? And will proximity to the mast interfere with the signal? I guess I could use a flag halyard to keep it away from the mast.
I am leaning towards the Noelex solution, but will be interested to know what you guys think.