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Go Back   SailNet Community > Out There > Cruising & Liveaboard Forum
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  #1  
Old 03-08-2010
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Mobile Internet Access

After searching the forum and finding most posts rather old, I'm inclined to inquire what form of mobile internet do you use traveling along the east coast? I have a T-Mobile cell phone account , they have unlimited Wi-Fi for about $40 a month for "Hot Spot" Locations. A little High cost for my budget.
Boingo has a laptop unlimited plan for about $10 a month, More reasonable.
We plan on using a laptop for online banking, e-mail and various other internet actions, such as this net.
Ranging from Florida Keys to Maine.
What do you use, what costs do you incur, what kind of connection speed is available and how accessible?
Thanks
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Old 03-08-2010
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I think you will find that all "unlimited" plans, contrary to the spin and advertisement...top out at about 5GB per MONTH, which really isn't much for us full time travelers...certainly not enough to spool a movie. After that every MB is a separate charge.

When working I had a sprint card that was quite reliable where sprint had coverage, not so much, anywhere else....I never saw the bill,but was told some were well over $400, and that was a corp account with no movies...

The networks will likely suffer this summer when the iPad debuts, as it's data plans are fairly robust, but the networks have not grown so you wil see slowdowns, bad ones I imagine.

If you hug the cost a better option may be a Ubiquity Bullet and hop on free wifi...when you can.

We went to Verizon yesterday, and their "unlimited" plan is NOT...and throttles to slow if overloaded...or you download more than what they think you should...

ALl the best, and do let us know what you decide and how it works. We are in the same boat.
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Old 03-08-2010
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Assuming that you're talking about accessing the internet via a cell phone provider's network (as opposed to WiFi), one interesting budget tradeoff may be whether you buy a PC card (PCMCIA) for your laptop vs. buying a phone that supports tethering (i.e., a cable to your laptop). If you buy the card AND have a phone for voice communication, it seems to me that you've paid for two cell phones.

It would be worthwhile hearing from those who have evaluated the tethering approach.
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Old 03-08-2010
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Basically, there are several different ways to get internet access on a cruising sailboat, depending on where you're cruising.

If you're coastal cruising, your two choices are usually either a cellular data plan or using WiFi.

Cellular data plans range in price and in data limits. Many smart phones, like the blackberries, some of the Windows Mobile phones and the iPhone, can be used to tether a laptop via a USB or BlueTooth connection. BTW, the iPhone will have to be a jailbroken one to tether for the most part, since AT&T can't pull its head out of its @$$ and get the tethering working on the non-jailbroken phones yet.

WiFi can be useful in many anchorages and harbors, as WiFi becomes more commonly available. Using an amplified WiFi antenna setup, much like the ones I written about on my blog, allow you to take advantage of open WiFi hotspots from a fairly significant distance.

Further away from civilized areas, the only real choice is satellite-based internet. Be aware that these access plans have high equipment and monthly costs, as well as a per-mb data costs.
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Old 03-09-2010
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Sailingdog's suggestion for an amplified WiFi antenna setup, such as the nanostation, looks to be the best option. Its affordable and fairly uncomplicated. Other than taking a laptop and hiking around towns I think that's the way I'll go.
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It is the least expensive way overall and often provides the greatest bandwidth.
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Originally Posted by Funsail View Post
Sailingdog's suggestion for an amplified WiFi antenna setup, such as the nanostation, looks to be the best option. Its affordable and fairly uncomplicated. Other than taking a laptop and hiking around towns I think that's the way I'll go.
Thanks
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

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Old 03-09-2010
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A bit over-connected here, perhaps.

I have a BulletHP for WiFi, a broadband wireless card for my laptop and a Motorola Droid. (Also have a Blackberry from work, but web browsing on it is difficult.)

I may scale back one of them. Probably not the BulletHP, even though I only plan to buy the $80 high-gain antenna next month. Why? Because that setup is a one-time, fixed cost that can payback for years, and the bandwidth is pretty high. E.g., I could probably watch movies via netflicks. Besides, I have visions of putting a webcam on our boat for when I'm not there.

On the other hand, broadband wireless (card plugged into a laptop, I hear USB is better) works out a few miles from shore and is great for pulling up weather reports when doing coastal cruising (e.g. intellicast.com's moving map, nexrad radar to show where the storms are and which way they are moving). So it's tough to let that go, even at $40 or $50 per month. (And I can connect into work when needed, although the Blackberry has that covered.)

On the 3rd hand (borrowing someone else's hand here), the Driod is so nice to have when driving ("turn left in 100 feet"), doing emial, and web browsing that is tough to give up. They do need a charting app though. It actually does all that the broadband card-laptop combination does, so maybe that's the way to go (at IIRC $24/month).

So for now, I'm a bit over connected. My job requires me to be able to connect on weekends, so it's been worth it.

If I was retired, I'd go with a Verizon cell phone that also docks to a laptop, AND the BulletHP with a high gain antenna. The first will give you connectivity in the most place. The second will give you WiFi connectivity out in the middle of the anchorage, not just near the shore/houses.

For what it's worth, T-Mobile would be my last choice, since IMHO their coverage is cities only. Their coverage elsewhere is simply insufficient for the job. (To be clear, they suck big time.)

Regards,
Brad

EDIT: P.S. The Nanostation is made by the same people as the BulletHP. The BulletHP lets you add any antenna you want, so you go for a bit higher gain. I understand there is a new outfit that uses the BulletHP technology as the basis for their offering, but uses different software to make it easier to use. Not sure about all that, haven't looked into it in awhile.

Good luck and please post for results when you do get set-up. I think many of us are looking to see how really effective each option is.
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Last edited by Bene505; 03-09-2010 at 11:21 AM.
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Old 03-09-2010
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I am currently cruising the east coast. I have used a Blackberry tethered to the laptop with Verizon wireless. The service has been fine for what have had to do. Most of the places you go ashore have some kind of wifi close by and reasonably easy to get to. About 50% of the marinas that we have used charge for wifi. A wifi booster would come in handy...its on my shopping list. Unless you need an anywhere connection dont worry about it...you wont be more than a day away from the internet on the US East Coast.
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Old 03-09-2010
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Paul,

How are you and the family doing. Last we heard you were still in Florida. When you headed back up?. Major changes at MYC. Go figure.LOL. Tom and Kathy are selling their boat and he is waitiong for a windown to get back across from the Bahamas. Say hi to mary for Donna and I.

Fair seas and good winds,

Dave
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Old 03-09-2010
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I use the Verizon card (w/phone acct for 450 unlimited min.) at a cost of a bit over $100 a month. Except for offshore of GA and SC and a few parts of interior NC (well away from any towns) I have no problems getting connected from Annapolis down to Marathon. (Also along FL west coast)
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