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Old 01-29-2011
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Satellite Internet Antenna Sensitivity?

Howdy,

I have a job that requires regular Internet access (not just email) and would like to sail the Carribean. I understand the availability of WiFi in that area (and the expense of the global Internet providers). I would like to have a fallback solution when WiFi is not available, without spending a fortune (more than $1k-ish).

My questions are:
1. Has anyone used a HughesNet (or similar) Satellite Internet provider in this area with a "fixed" antenna/dish?
2. How sensitive is the antenna to boat motion while anchored/moored?
3. Is a stabilized antenna available for HughesNet (or similar)? I have not found one but perhaps I have just looked in the wrong places.

I do not mind having to aim the antenna with each wind shift. However; I do not want a "solution" that is so sensitive that the waves from a passing dinghy cause signal loss.

Thanks!

Jon
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Old 01-29-2011
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You can't really use a fixed antenna on a boat. It doesn't work because the antenna can't remain fixed well enough on the satellite...

Yes, they make a gyro-stabilized dish, but it's a lot more than your budget.
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Old 01-30-2011
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Sailingdog,

I am not sure I completely understand your answer.

If I understand correctly, you HAVE tried a fixed dish such as Hughesnet while anchored/moored. Can you please describe how it did work? Are you saying that every little motion of the boat caused it to loose signal or it would work for ten minutes and then loose signal? I am looking for more description that "it don't work". I know it works when mounted to a fixed location and also when docked, I would like to hear some real experiences (while on the hook/moored) so I can judge if it will work "well enough" for my requirements.

Please send a link to the stabilized antennas that exist for HughesNet, WildBlue, etc... I am unable to find them.

Thanks,

Jon
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Old 01-30-2011
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I've installed satellite high-speed internet in a couple dozen locations. On a slip, you might get away with it, but on a mooring or at anchor, because of the boat's movement, unless you're in an anchorage with absolutely no currents, swell or other boats.... it won't work AFAICT.

High speed internet requires a satellite dish to be locked onto a satellite in geosynchronous orbit... and I doubt you'd be able to aim the dish well enough to get a good signal, given a moving platform.

As for stabilized antenna... just google KVH.


Quote:
Originally Posted by JonFinley2001 View Post
Sailingdog,

I am not sure I completely understand your answer.

If I understand correctly, you HAVE tried a fixed dish such as Hughesnet while anchored/moored. Can you please describe how it did work? Are you saying that every little motion of the boat caused it to loose signal or it would work for ten minutes and then loose signal? I am looking for more description that "it don't work". I know it works when mounted to a fixed location and also when docked, I would like to hear some real experiences (while on the hook/moored) so I can judge if it will work "well enough" for my requirements.

Please send a link to the stabilized antennas that exist for HughesNet, WildBlue, etc... I am unable to find them.

Thanks,

Jon
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her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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Sailingdog,

You're response is helpful. If I understand correctly, you have answered my first question: You have never actually tried a "fixed" HughesNet (or similar) on an anchored/moored boat. Anybody else?? I was (and am) specifically looking for someone that has actually tried this and isi willing to share their real world experience.

The KVH antennas do not support HughesNet/WildBlue Internet providers and are in an entirely different class of equipment (commercial maritime, if you will). Based on this, I am still looking for a stabilized antenna that will work with one of the "residential" Internet providers that I mentioned (HughesNet/WildBlue).

Anybody??
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Old 01-31-2011
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Jon, you don't need feedback from anyone who has used the HughesNet antenna on a boat. They are not unique in any way beyond the "Hughes" label.

A satellite communications antenna is a low-power narrow-beam transmitter, which typically has to be pointed directly at a satellite with an accuracy tighter than one degree. Now, without worrying about how much accuracy you need, do you really think you can point an antenna, horizontally and vertically, within ONE DEGREE and KEEP IT THAT WAY on a boat that is moving, heeling, rocking, twisting in the wind?

No, you can't. Even if you buy one of the RV dishes that self-aligns on the satellite, it still needs to be mounted ROCK STEADY in order to maintain alignment.

If you cannot mount the antenna on something that doesn't move, you need an active stabilizing antena. Try Inmarsat. For a thousand dollars--you won't get it. And FWIW, Hughes has contract restrictions about users who sign up for mobile service, with a mobile (RV self-aligning) antenna kit, versus users who buy a ground station and then break their contract by relocating it without hiring a professional installer to reinstall it every time it is moved. Hughes claims you'll disrupt their entire system by doing it yourself. (I'm not saying that's true, just that they claim you'll kill us all if you breach their terms.) Of course they'll cancel your service if they catch you at it.
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Why would I bother trying, when I know it won't work??? As HS has pointed out the angle of acceptance for the satellite dish is very, very narrow—both vertically and horizontally.

As HS mentioned, a gyro stabilized dish is going to be very expensive, and the KVH ones are one of the few designs that will work on a boat.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JonFinley2001 View Post
Sailingdog,

You're response is helpful. If I understand correctly, you have answered my first question: You have never actually tried a "fixed" HughesNet (or similar) on an anchored/moored boat. Anybody else?? I was (and am) specifically looking for someone that has actually tried this and isi willing to share their real world experience.

The KVH antennas do not support HughesNet/WildBlue Internet providers and are in an entirely different class of equipment (commercial maritime, if you will). Based on this, I am still looking for a stabilized antenna that will work with one of the "residential" Internet providers that I mentioned (HughesNet/WildBlue).

Anybody??
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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.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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Old 02-01-2011
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Jon

Hughes is dog slow on solid ground, and the up and down rates are too far apart to be useful. to do this on a boat, you need a tracking antenna or as the others indicate a stabilized unit...either are outrageously expensive and require a fair amount of work to install, correctly.

There are some other attempts out there, but are receive only options. Some of the Hughes internet systems still use "phone lines" for the uplink side of things...making it even less practical for what you are trying to do. You will also find that the Hughes systems has really low bandwidth limits, like 350MB (yes MB) daily...then it will throttle your connection to make sure everyone shares the pipe...so if you have someone who watches TV via the Hughes, others will not be able to connect...when it gets too busy it simply shuts down, restarts and throws you off..

Your $1K budget kills any viable options out of the gate.
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Old 02-01-2011
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Hellosailer,

Thank you! Your post was helpful and turned me on to the key words necessary to find the information required. Particularly the "commissioning" of an antenna and the required aiming accuracy (much greater than satellite TV dish due to the transmit functionality). Now knowing more about the criticality of the antenna aim, I too can see that this approach would not work on boat in a calm harbor.

I guess I am not communicating very well based on the responses. I am not looking for gold. As I attempted to say, I am looking for a fallback solution that, obviously (I thought), would not be used when the boat is bouncing all around. I am HOPING for an approach that would work in calm conditions (only) for short periods of time after a few minutes of setup. The following link is an option but, as with all options that I have found, the data cost is huge ($5-$7/MB).

BGAN Explorer 300 Photos

It would appear that the information age has just not reached the point that I was hoping for, yet. I'm sure it will at some point.

Jon
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Old 02-01-2011
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I'd point out that you can use the smaller, unaimed satellite phones, like the Iridium handsets, for internet data, and that their prices for the hardware are not astronomical...but they do not have flat rate dataplans, only ones that charge per megabyte.
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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.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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