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melody1204 08-20-2012 01:34 AM

Wifi on board
First I want to apologize because I'm sure this has been discussed ad nauseum but I've searched the forums and while I've found some useful info, I still have some questions.

In the fall, Chris and I will be traveling from the Chesapeake down the ICW to Florida. I'm working full time from the boat - I work for a promotional marketing company (so if anyone needs swag, hit me up!) and I also run our organic clothing line (Happy 2be Here), AND I'm the webmaster for our blog (see signature). Needless to say, I'm on the internet more than I'd like to admit!

Since this trip will take longer than the number of vacation days I have left (and I'd rather save those for a week in the Bahamas), I will need to work full time during our trip, which means I need to be connected for at least 7-8 hours a day.

Here is the best solution I've come up with so far:
1. Get an omnidirectional wifi extender AND
2. Get Verizon card

Is this the only/best option to ensure connectivity? I understand that while under way, the Verizon card will be more practical, as the extender won't have continued signal as we move. I would still like to have the extender so that when we're anchored, I can try to get signal without eating the data on the Verizon card.

My second question is: when using an extender, are you only able to connect if you find an unsecured network? Does anyone have one that can lend any insight to this? Is it difficult to find unsecured networks? It seems that most people secure their networks now, so I don't want to spend $300 plus just yet on this equipment if it's only going to get me a useable signal every so often.

Sorry for the long post and for bringing up a likely much touched on subject, but hoping for some fresh views. Thanks!

Capt. Gary Randall 08-20-2012 01:57 AM

Re: Wifi on board
hello Melody,I might be able to help you out. Verizon has what is called a 4G hotspot this is a unit the size of a credit card and as long as you are within cell phone range you will have a very powerful WiFi unit that you can secure your self or share it with friends it will run up to six computers with excellent power. I have one I carry in my pocket I use it in the car when I'm visiting and mostly on the boat, I am amazed at the distance that this unit works. It cost about $200 but it is only $60 a month once you have it set up you can buy time for it at most any convenience store or you can reload it with your computer if your offshore. I hope you will be satisfied there are others on the market but they do not have the range, Virgin mobile as long as you in their a good-sized city it will work is only $40 a month there will be others out on the market soon....captg

JimsCAL 08-20-2012 07:55 AM

Re: Wifi on board
As you guessed, a Wifi antenna will get you more range, but you will be limited to unsecured networks. I agree with Gary that a 3G or 4G cellular broadband card is probably the best solution. Most providers have such a service. Here's a pretty inexpensive one recently announced by Net Zero.

Broadband Internet | 4G Mobile Broadband | DSL | Dial-Up | NetZero

TakeFive 08-20-2012 08:23 AM

Re: Wifi on board
Shop around before committing. There are many carriers offering 4G hotspots and/or tethering to a phone plan. You need to decide whether to buy a "plan" (2 year commitment) or go monthly. I strongly prefer the latter. WalMart has some exclusive deals that are sometimes a little better than elsewhere, so have a look there. I recently switched my cell service to T-mobile monthly plan - "unlimited" data and text, 100 min talk for $30/month. (I use Skype for phone calls above 100 min.) This plan is available at WalMart or only. With an unlocked Android phone, you can configure your phone as a wireless hotspot on this plan if you don't get caught. T-mobile also has hotspot plans that are fully legit.

kjzerr 08-20-2012 08:31 AM

Re: Wifi on board
Hi Melody:

My wife and I ran an online business from the road for 18 months while traveling the US in our motor coach (2009-2010). We used a Verizon air card and a wireless router to provide internet service to two computers (and a printer). The air card plugged into a USB port in the router. For $60 per month we had available 5G of data transfer. It worked well in most locations where Verizon Wireless cell service was available. It sounds as if the 4G Hotspot of which Gary speaks might be a "next generation" iteration of the air card. As with the 4G Hotspot, our air card cost about $200. Only once did we go over 5Gs of usage in a month, and we did a lot of volume, but consistently used 3-4Gs.

As far as wifi goes, my experience is that almost everyone secures their signal. However, more and more businesses are providing free wifi (Panera Bread, Starbucks, etc.). So, the wifi extender may be a viable option in certain locations, and it can certainly help to ensure that you don't exceed your 5G allotment.


bvander66 08-20-2012 09:03 AM

Re: Wifi on board
I recommend you check out, they have some articles which talk to computing aboard and they give some different options in a relatively unbiased mode.

wingNwing 08-20-2012 09:28 AM

Re: Wifi on board
We're also using a tethered phone - and have gotten signal almost everywhere the length of the ICW with the exception of part of central NC. But ... I'm only on for an hour or two at the beginning and end of the day. If you're on for 7-8 hours, check your data usage to make sure you don't exceed whatever plan you're on. svAuspicious (Dave) is a sailnet member here in Annapolis who's got lots of expertise in this area.

ParadiseParrot 08-20-2012 09:39 AM

Re: Wifi on board

melody1204 08-20-2012 09:56 AM

Re: Wifi on board
Thank you, everyone! I figured the 4G broadband was the way to go - worried a little about exceeding the 5GB data limit, but can always find a way around that if I need to (i.e. checking and answering emails from my phone, which gets unlimited data and using pc just for my other purposes).

I'll check out the Active Captain thread and talk to some people mentioned above but based on the advice here and what I've gotten from people here at the marina, Verizon is my best bet. As always, thanks again for the advice and expertise!

sea_hunter 08-20-2012 09:57 AM

Get the Verizon card with the new share plan. We've been using it now for 4 years on our 3rd generation equipment. We also have the cellular booster (not WiFi booster) and we've been able to connect up to 10 miles from shore. We work off our boat too, so internet connection is a must.

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