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Hey Guys!

We have done the sailboat thing recreationally forever and have always talked about moving aboard. We were planning on when I finished school. I have a new job - where telecommuting is acceptable. I dont have to use VoIP or video conferencing or anything of that sort. Connect to VPN - remote to my computer in the office and work away. We have a couple of people in my position who are 100% remote.
This is something they will let me do after the next year.

What are the options for satellite internet (open to ANY options) or working from aboard? Everything I have seen places the equipment at $7k-10k, and monthly service at ~$1000. Thats kind of insane.

Do I just get a signal booster and stay close to shore? Whats the best route here?

Kasey
 

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Mermaid Hunter
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A lot depends on where you plan to be.

Satellite Internet is the most expensive way to go. It's slow unless your wallet is very very fat.

Cellular is faster and cheaper. There are still dead spots so again, where you plan to cruise makes a difference.

WiFi range extension is fastest and cheapest but most limited in coverage.

For active cruisers a combination of short (WiFi), medium (cellular), and long (satellite or HF/SSB) range communications is the most effective solution. For liveaboards who don't move much or coastal cruisers who can choose their stops based on Internet access WiFi and/or cellular is most cost effective.

I'm in this business. Let me know how I can help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I've been doing a fair amount of research on this today while waiting for scripts to run at work.

We dont really have a big set plan yet (well, actually we just have about 30)- if we were tethered to internet, we'd probably keep to the Caribbean for a while. So how does cellular work? Something like the Wirie where you just get a SIM card locally and connect that way? What kind of range can you get on wi-fi signal boosters? Would using a phone as a hotspot be a better solution?
 

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Mermaid Hunter
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We dont really have a big set plan yet (well, actually we just have about 30)- if we were tethered to internet, we'd probably keep to the Caribbean for a while. So how does cellular work? Something like the Wirie where you just get a SIM card locally and connect that way? What kind of range can you get on wi-fi signal boosters? Would using a phone as a hotspot be a better solution?
The Wirie is a WiFi range extender, and not a very good one. The good WiFi range extenders are the Ubiquiti Bullet (often rebranded) with a WiFi router (like the Linksys WRT-54GL), the RedPort Halo and Optimizer, or the Mikrotik Groove and a WiFi router. A good installation of good equipment will get you three to four miles from an access point.

Cellular works by using your phone as a hotspot or by using a dedicated cellular modem. It runs through the local cellular infrastructure. A booster will add significant range, as much as twelve miles from a cell tower.

I build "office afloat" systems around the RedPort Optimizer because it can integrate WiFi, cellular, and satellite. You can build similar systems around CradlePoint hardware.

If you are interested in a list of sources (including me, but not just me) send me an email at [email protected] .
 

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The issue you are going to have is what kind of work you are doing. My wife's law firm, for example, has her working on their server using RDP and bandwidth is not near as important as latency and consistency of the signal.

We have all Ubiquiti equipment to create a PTP link between our boat (Bullet Titanium on mast) and a tower on a friend's roof on shore (Nanostation on tower). We have coverage over most of the bay here in Mexico and have even been able to watch HD videos over 4 miles out while uploading hi-res photos to FB if we are within the path of the land-based tower. The boat has a 360-deg antenna and the shore antenna is about 55-deg, so we have to stay within that piece of the pie. There are 360-deg options for both ends, but that means you'd need a bigger, more expensive antenna like the Rocket.

The reason I mentioned the type of work you are doing is that even though we may have a good connection to shore and able to watch videos on Netflix or Youtube, RDP will sometimes keep falling off because of the modulating increase and decrease in throughput. Before we got the tower up and running, we were using the Bullet to access land-based wifi access points at the marina, shore-side hotels (also using Ubiquiti antennas). It was terrible. RDP wouldn't stay up for long at all and you could definitely tell when everyone was using the internet because it would take several minutes for a simple page to load (forget loading SN with all the 3rd party site loads). Once we got the tower operational and stayed anchored out in the bay, all of that changed. If we have line of site from the mast top to the house...we are fully operational. The only time we don't have internet is if the power or cable is out in the area (very rarely where we are in Mexico).

So if you want it to be up more than it is down, you have to have dedicated equipment and your own internet connection to do it. It's not reliable to do marina wifi (or any wifi hotspot) for that matter if you want total reliability and throughput.

Depending on your area and how much data usage you need, I know people who have had success with mobile data plans (USB stick plugin type stuff) in several countries. I have also heard of marinas that have cable hookups at the marina where you create an account at the local cable company and pay for a plan just as you would at a house...but I think they are becoming more rare than they used to be (definitely rare outside the US).

Overall, I think we have less than $500 in equipment between the boat and shore and we pay 100% of our friend's internet bill every month which is a little over 300 Pesos (at the time of this writing less than $20). This can be done anywhere in the world where you have a friend with high-speed internet and they'll let you put a pipe with some guy-wires on their roof or something within line of sight of where your boat is and within the range of the antennas. the max I think ours will do is about 13km if we have the settings fine-tuned. Other radios can go much further up to 50 km or more if they are directly pointed at each other. Point is, our connection between boat and shore is 6x faster than the fastest cable internet package available here where we are. So the bottleneck in our system is not our equipment, but the 10MBps internet plan! :grin
 

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The issue you are going to have is what kind of work you are doing. My wife's law firm, for example, has her working on their server using RDP and bandwidth is not near as important as latency and consistency of the signal.

We have all Ubiquiti equipment to create a PTP link between our boat (Bullet Titanium on mast) and a tower on a friend's roof on shore (Nanostation on tower). We have coverage over most of the bay here in Mexico and have even been able to watch HD videos over 4 miles out while uploading hi-res photos to FB if we are within the path of the land-based tower. The boat has a 360-deg antenna and the shore antenna is about 55-deg, so we have to stay within that piece of the pie. There are 360-deg options for both ends, but that means you'd need a bigger, more expensive antenna like the Rocket.

The reason I mentioned the type of work you are doing is that even though we may have a good connection to shore and able to watch videos on Netflix or Youtube, RDP will sometimes keep falling off because of the modulating increase and decrease in throughput. Before we got the tower up and running, we were using the Bullet to access land-based wifi access points at the marina, shore-side hotels (also using Ubiquiti antennas). It was terrible. RDP wouldn't stay up for long at all and you could definitely tell when everyone was using the internet because it would take several minutes for a simple page to load (forget loading SN with all the 3rd party site loads). Once we got the tower operational and stayed anchored out in the bay, all of that changed. If we have line of site from the mast top to the house...we are fully operational. The only time we don't have internet is if the power or cable is out in the area (very rarely where we are in Mexico).

So if you want it to be up more than it is down, you have to have dedicated equipment and your own internet connection to do it. It's not reliable to do marina wifi (or any wifi hotspot) for that matter if you want total reliability and throughput.

Depending on your area and how much data usage you need, I know people who have had success with mobile data plans (USB stick plugin type stuff) in several countries. I have also heard of marinas that have cable hookups at the marina where you create an account at the local cable company and pay for a plan just as you would at a house...but I think they are becoming more rare than they used to be (definitely rare outside the US).

Overall, I think we have less than $500 in equipment between the boat and shore and we pay 100% of our friend's internet bill every month which is a little over 300 Pesos (at the time of this writing less than $20). This can be done anywhere in the world where you have a friend with high-speed internet and they'll let you put a pipe with some guy-wires on their roof or something within line of sight of where your boat is and within the range of the antennas. the max I think ours will do is about 13km if we have the settings fine-tuned. Other radios can go much further up to 50 km or more if they are directly pointed at each other. Point is, our connection between boat and shore is 6x faster than the fastest cable internet package available here where we are. So the bottleneck in our system is not our equipment, but the 10MBps internet plan! :grin

The shore-side stuff is small enough (two 10' pipes with clamps and 5 guy-wires) that storing it on the boat and finding a new friend in the next port who wants free internet at their house is all you need. We can just take it with us.
 

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We have the Bullet/Bad Boy antenna radio. It works great if we can get an access point ashore. THAT is the problem, down here in the Caribbean. Even the pay access points can be poor to terrible and much of the time there just isn't one at all while you cruise the islands.
Sometimes you can find an open access point that is free and pretty good, but you can't rely on that maybe, if you HAD to get online for something important like work.
Most folks just take their computer/tablet to a bar or restaurant and use that access point, but then you've got to spend 10 or 15 bucks every time you want a connection and do your work in a public place.
A lot of folks use a data plan thru the phone, but it can get costly if you have to use a lot.
I doubt seriously that you could cruise the Windwards and Leewards and meet your professional needs as things stand down here right now. You could sit somewhere like Prickly Bay in Grenada or Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou for the periods you need to work and cruise for the periods you don't. But even those access points crash, have connection problems and the phone companies just don't care enough to provide good bandwidth to the internet providers.
Right now we are sitting in Rodney Bay Marina waiting out Mathew and not one of the 7 marina supplied access points works well enough to get online, and this is an IGY International marina with supposedly tons of awards and accolades world wide.
As for offshore sailing, if you've got the bucks I'm sure it can be managed, but the only vessels I know that can manage it for commercial purposes are those with over 100k in those huge dome antennas and vessels valued well over several million bucks. The mega yacht crowd have no problem connecting to the internet anytime, anywhere.
I also am looking for a solution to this problem that won't break the bank. Let me know if you find it.
 

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Mermaid Hunter
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The issue you are going to have is what kind of work you are doing.
Absolutely 100% correct and directly to the point. I did hear from PsychedChicken offline and that is the key point of my response.

Someone sending Word documents back and forth has different needs than someone that needs a live connection to a database with large computational loads at the client end. VOIP requires more bandwidth with consistent latency than emails. Teamviewer requires more bandwidth than RDP but is less sensitive to latency variability.

We have all Ubiquiti equipment to create a PTP link between our boat (Bullet Titanium on mast) and a tower on a friend's roof on shore (Nanostation on tower).
This is a viable approach when you don't move around over a large geographic area. You OWN (well, lease) your backhaul and don't share it with anyone else.

So if you want it to be up more than it is down, you have to have dedicated equipment and your own internet connection to do it. It's not reliable to do marina wifi (or any wifi hotspot) for that matter if you want total reliability and throughput.
This is one of the reasons that cellular is overwhelming WiFi as a consistent and reliable access mechanism. LTE is making the mechanics more difficult. *sigh* Cellular boosters have not caught up with interface changes either. *big sigh*
 

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I suspect the population density and hence internet access in multiple locations in *paradise" will make inexpensive communications dicey for quite some time.

Of course the mega yachts might be able to serve as floating internet access hot spots... I suppose they could charge a fee. But maybe that is expecting too much?????

Cellular hot spot works well in southern NE and I am able to work on my laptop and use the net. But it is consuming data allowances. These are operating costs for a business. Afloat you have so many reduced costs... for your business... why not consider telcom a business expense? I realize people work from their laptops in bed, at the kitchen table and maybe even from an actual home office with copy machine, file cabinets etc. I suppose it depends on what your work is and what your work product is. I can produce CAD drawings... no need for paper prints... and so I can work from almost anywhere I can get access to email and web for searches...

I suppose it all depends on many things... but connecting to the www from a boat anywhere ain't happen' cheap for the foreseeable future.

You get what you want... but you lose what you had!
 

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Can you be more specific on your bandwidth requirements and monthly data usage.

I guess you would be OK most of the time in most of the islands in the Eastern Caribbean using a dongle and buying a SIM card for each island. You will be on PAYG and almost nobody gives you unlimited data. 5g for 150 EC dollars would be typical approx 50 US good for 1 month.

The WIFI service from small providers will be less reliable and specific to restricted locations.
 

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Mermaid Hunter
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Cellular hot spot works well in southern NE and I am able to work on my laptop and use the net.
Which returns to the two principle issues of requirements and geography.

What are you doing? In most cases backhaul is the limiting factor. Your 54 Mbps connection to an access point doesn't mean much if there are ten boats connected and sharing 1.544 Mbps to the Internet. More access points are blocking high bandwidth consumers like Skype and Netflix.

Geography makes a big difference. NC and GA on the ICW have more cellular challenges than the Bahamas. It all depends.

These are operating costs for a business. Afloat you have so many reduced costs... for your business... why not consider telcom a business expense?
Exactly. Cost of doing business. It's just an economic cost, like car costs, dry cleaning costs, etc.
 

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S/V Calypso
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I am currently using the RedPort Halo and Optimizer which I purchased from SVAuspicious. It has worked well for all of my needs. It allows me to work (telecommute) from my boat, stream video, you name it. The limitation, of course, is the wifi access point you are connecting to. It was easy to set up and configure, and came with plenty of CAT 5 for my application. I would recommend it to anyone.

-Chris
 

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I got an Island Time system a couple of months ago and am traveling down the east coast. I haven't been very impressed. The system seems to bog down to the point I give up and make a cell phone hot spot, which works well but eats data.
 

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I've been considering getting a Verizon JetPack for the boat, as we are typically coastal NE. I find non-password protected public access wifi becoming harder to find and expect it will be a dinosaur before long.

I have a couple of interests.

First, I am tempted to put a DropCam aboard, so I can monitor security when I'm away and bluntly see if the yard staff has even shown up to do work I've requested. Not to mention be able to see how long they were truly aboard.

Second, I'm also tempted to get a slingbox for home, so I can access sports channels on my home cable box. This may be particularly nice to have next summer for the America's Cup. Last time, I remember trying to find internet sites that were broadcasting it.

Of course, when I go to the Verizon site, they have several versions of hardware and absolutely nothing that helps the unfamiliar, like myself, understand the difference. There is also no information on the data plans, until you pick some hardware and put it in your cart.

Anyone have any recommendations on a personal MiFi cellular hotspot that would be left aboard?
 

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Minnie I had the Verizon hotspot for a year. It worked well in coastal New England. Big step up in expense and service is Verizon offers a ~$10/d plan that allows you to use your cell phone anywhere in the world without new sim cards and no change in phone number. You can then put an antenna on the phone and set up a boat LAN. Downside is its a huge expense.
Spent 1/2 a year in eastern carribean. Go to a bar/restaurant/etc. and have a drink and get the password. Go back to the boat fire up the computer and booster. Do your thing. Found better speeds doing stuff very early in the morning. 5-7a local time or after midnight. Still not good enough to run a business.
Nervous about doing anything financial over any wifi. Used phone/cellular for that.
Use prepay SIM cards down in the islands don't buy a contract. Seems local companies look at you as a mark. They know you are moving about with limited access to their offices. Had them keep billing my card after I turned the phone back in. Was a hassle to get a refund.
We are going back in a few weeks. Will use cell, wifi with boosters, vpn and set up all financial stuff to run through a third party state side.
Still hope KVH comes out with a cruisers package. Can't afford them or the Verizon plan for any length of time.
 

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$10 per day? Holy smokes.

For now, I only spend a couple of weeks in the Caribbean and definitely get by with visiting the local watering hole wifi for that.

I thought I saw Verizon JetPack monthly service costs around $100/mo, for summer in NE use. Still, I have no idea whether that's the way to go.
 

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Mermaid Hunter
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Some more thoughts after reviewing this thread again.

Connect to VPN - remote to my computer in the office and work away. We have a couple of people in my position who are 100% remote.
In general I'm a believer that technology should support the way people work. Sometimes technology becomes an end in itself and a philosophical reset is appropriate.

There are very few applications that require RDP (desktop and server admin support for Windows and Mac are exceptions). It took me years to wean my wife off GoToMyPC. The last new computer was a high power laptop and a docking station. Now she can work with or without an Internet connection, and slow or intermittent Internet connection is no longer a source of frustration.

Now PsychedChicken may work for an employer whose IT people are not rational. *grin* RDP may be the only way they support remote workers. If they have configuration management and backup concerns those can be addressed.

OS and application update policies are another factor you will have to come to agreement with your IT people about. You need to be compliant with their policies and they need to understand that you may need a day or so from time to time to accommodate a massive download.

We have the Bullet/Bad Boy antenna radio. It works great if we can get an access point ashore. THAT is the problem, down here in the Caribbean. Even the pay access points can be poor to terrible and much of the time there just isn't one at all while you cruise the islands.
Your experience is common. That is why most people have multiple Internet access mechanisms.

WiFi access is so often dependent on a lot of moving parts that are not professionally designed or implemented. Inadequate or unreliable backhaul is the biggest problem in the islands. When you can get a good connection it is cheapest and fastest of the options.

Interestingly, cellular is getting better and better in third world paradise. Cellular is often the only means of communication for locals so there is a lot of pressure on companies and regulators to get it right. I generally get better performance in most of the Bahamas than on the ICW in NC for example.

In the Eastern Caribbean there are some good places with coverage holes in between. Again if you can get off bandwidth intensive applications like RDP and focus on transferring real data and not desktop refreshes you'll be happier and more productive in more places.

As for offshore sailing, if you've got the bucks I'm sure it can be managed, but the only vessels I know that can manage it for commercial purposes are those with over 100k in those huge dome antennas and vessels valued well over several million bucks. The mega yacht crowd have no problem connecting to the internet anytime, anywhere.
I was proposal manager for a $100M effort while I was crossing the Atlantic in 2006. It took some adjustment and planning and organization ahead of time. It helped that my boss was a sailor and his boss was a boater and both thought what I was doing was really cool. The team felt engaged since my daily all-hands email included a little insight into life at sea. We were able to make everyone feel engaged and part of something special. It helped that my company was supportive and used to working across multiple time zones and countries. It also helped that we ultimately won the bid. *grin*

The workhorse communication went over HF/SSB Pactor with Sailmail and ShipCom. Slow but reliable. In England, the Azores, Bermuda, and Norfolk we arranged for a few days of really solid high-speed Internet and lots of conference calls. That was not inexpensive but not terrible.

I also am looking for a solution to this problem that won't break the bank. Let me know if you find it.
Today, on the same boat, I have more diverse options. I still depend on HF/SSB for long range communications ($250/yr for Sailmail, free through Winlink). I have both a Ubiquiti Bullet and a RedPort Halo for WiFi. The only reason I have both is I sell the things and I drink my own Kool-Aid. I also have a cellular modem that distributes connection through WiFi inside the boat. I now have a Globalstar satellite phone that I am experimenting with; it is a prototype product so as long as I'm part of the evaluation I don't have any costs. At my usage level the data costs would be about $800/yr.

Cellular hot spot works well in southern NE and I am able to work on my laptop and use the net. But it is consuming data allowances.
How well cellular works from you boat depends on a lot of things. Between topography and antenna pattern tuning by the service providers the Atlantic ICW in NC and GA are really poor for example.

"Cheap" is relative. If you just want to stay connected the costs are extra to your life. If you need to stay connected for work those costs are part of doing business and you have to fit them into your budget.

My cellular bill for a smart phone and a separate cellular modem runs about $125/mon from AT&T.

I got an Island Time system a couple of months ago and am traveling down the east coast. I haven't been very impressed. The system seems to bog down to the point I give up and make a cell phone hot spot, which works well but eats data.
You may have a hardware problem, an installation problem, a configuration problem, a training problem, or a problem with expectations. Have you called Bob Stewart and talked it over with him? His customer service is outstanding.

I had the Verizon hotspot for a year.
Verizon coverage is darn good in the US. Hardware and service cost to get multi-mode connections outside the US really adds up. A GSM phone or modem (AT&T or T-Mobile) makes your life much easier in the Bahamas and the Caribbean (and Europe and most of Asia and the South Pacific). Between AT&T and local SIM cards and a Google Voice (GV) account my gear just works almost everywhere. GV solves the consistent phone number problem.

Still hope KVH comes out with a cruisers package. Can't afford them or the Verizon plan for any length of time.
They have. It's still expensive.

I have a presentation on this material I've given a number of times for SSCA, SSU, BoatUS, and boat shows. If there is interest I can do a Google Hangout presentation for SailNet.
 

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Land lubber
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$10 per day? Holy smokes.

For now, I only spend a couple of weeks in the Caribbean and definitely get by with visiting the local watering hole wifi for that.

I thought I saw Verizon JetPack monthly service costs around $100/mo, for summer in NE use. Still, I have no idea whether that's the way to go.
It will cost more than $10/day to visit the local bars.
 

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Hope this isn't hijacking the thread.
Can someone help me with these terms. I'm a bit of an idiot when it comes to them.
Arriving in Admiralty Bay yesterday, the new internet company has two scales. One, (forgive me if I'm getting the numbers wrong, but I can't access the page now) says Data, 1024/512 bits for $3.50 a day and the other is unlimited internet for $9.50.
I thought everything that came in over the internet was data????????????????????
I chose the unlimited to watch some Netflix so I spent the big bucks, but need I have done so?
 
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