While a good internet connection is expected and normal on the shore, the situation is different at sea. That’s because the motion and location connected to sailing can make it extremely difficult for you to have a reliable connection and a strong signal. But, it’s not impossible! Today, we’ve prepared a thorough guide to getting internet access on boats and we’re ready to share our insights with you!
Is it Possible to Get Access to the Internet on a Boat?
The simple answer is yes, you can get access to the internet when you’re on a boat. However, you can’t expect to have a strong signal as you would on the shore. There are many reasons for that, particularly the motion and winds, which significantly affect the quality of the internet connection. What’s more, the distance from the shore is important to consider, as stability is essential for a good signal.
Luckily, technology nowadays allows us to have internet access no matter where we are. By investing in a quality satellite dish or a special gadget that increases your chances of getting a good signal, you may be able to perform just any online activity you can imagine.
Ways to Get Internet on a Boat
The Best Ways to Get Internet on a Boat
1. Using Mobile Data
Cellular data is the most popular and probably the best way to get an internet connection on the boat. Many users claim that this method of obtaining internet is the most reliable and provides the strongest coverage.
The process of getting the internet via your cellular data is simple. You will have to turn on the personal hotspot feature on your phone and enable access from other devices. Your personal hotspot will appear as a Wi-Fi network on other devices.
The mobile data option is connected to your SIM card. Therefore, you’ll have to choose a provider who offers a good plan that will allow you to perform any online activities you want. A lot of cell companies nowadays offer amazing maritime plans that have good coverage on the sea.
The main downside to this method of obtaining internet access is the pricing. This option is not as cheap as some others we are about to discuss. In addition, if you want more data available and better coverage, you will probably have to go with a larger plan, which can cost a lot. Still, it’s difficult to find a more reliable internet option.
Another disadvantage to opting for a mobile hotspot is the signal strength in the sea. Just like with most other methods on this list, a signal from your mobile device will get weaker as you move further from the shore. You may even be left without internet for some time.
If you’re going to sail abroad, the process of using cellular data might be more complicated. That’s because you’ll need a SIM card with a roaming plan – that’s the only way to use your SIM card outside of your country without breaking the bank.
- Good coverage
2. Installing a Satellite Dish
Satellite broadband is another popular option for boaters. This method of getting internet access is a bit more complicated since it involves installing a satellite dish on your boat. You will also need to purchase a special maritime satellite plan from a trustworthy broadband provider. Choosing your internet provider carefully is more important than in other instances because the internet on the sea is too unreliable as it is.
Satellite internet tends to be pretty unpredictable. That’s mostly because of motion, which is completely normal on the boat but is the worst thing for your signal. What’s more, strong winds and rain, which are pretty common on boats, can have a huge effect on the quality of your connection.
Recommended reading: The Best Internet Options for RV Living to Try Out in 2022
In addition, satellite broadband is usually quite expensive. Many boaters believe it’s not worth the money, as you’ll be spending a lot on a service that will remain unreliable as long as you’re far from the shore. This option will work best with boaters who are staying close to the shore most of the time.
While a traditional satellite internet connection may not be the best choice, you should also think about trying Starlink Internet. It’s also a satellite internet service, but slightly different from traditional satellite internet. To be precise, it’s a more reliable and faster but equally expensive option.
Review – Starlink Internet on a Boat
- Full control over usage
3. Making the Most of the Broadband Global Area Network
The Broadband Global Area Network or BGAN is an increasingly popular method of obtaining an internet connection in difficult-to-reach areas. Aircraft companies have been utilizing this global network for quite some time.
BGAN works via portable terminals which connect to satellites around the world to bring you an internet connection. These terminals are small and easy to install and should provide you with a signal as long as you have GPS and a clear view of the sky.
The Broadband Global Area Network is among the more reliable methods of obtaining internet access on the sea. It should work no matter how far from the shore you are.
However, the plans with BGAN are extremely expensive and you likely won’t get too much data to use. They’re not the best option if you don’t spend too much time off the shore.
- Internet anywhere you go
- Easy to install
- Very expensive
4. Getting Wi-Fi from the Shore
Once you’re docked at a marina, port, or harbor, you can search for available wireless networks open to the public. For a small fee, you may even be able to get access to a private network for increased security and a more stable connection. Before you start your journey, you should do some research on the options available around you. That way, you’ll know which ports offer the most reliable connection.
The main downside to this option is the coverage. As soon as you move further from the shore, you’ll lose any internet connection you had. What’s more, open wireless networks are notorious for their unreliability. If there are too many people using the network, you probably won’t be able to get anything done.
Still, opting for a land-based Wi-Fi connection is cheap or even free, which means it’s worth trying out. In case you don’t mind investing in an additional gadget for a better signal, you can purchase a wireless signal extender. Many manufacturers have special wireless boosters that work best on boats and will increase the strength of your signal no matter how much traffic there is on the network.
Using a Cell Booster vs. Using a Wi-Fi Booster on a Boat
- Cheap or free
- Works only on the shore
It’s possible to get a reliable internet connection when you’re on a boat. Some options won’t be as good as others but will be easier to manage and much cheaper. On the other hand, certain methods of obtaining internet access will come with a hefty price tag but will deliver much more reliability. It’s up to you to determine whether they are worth it or not!
Hey, I’m Jeremy. I hold a bachelor’s degree in information systems, and I’m a certified network specialist. I worked for several internet providers in LA, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Seattle over the past 21 years.
I worked as a customer service operator, field technician, network engineer, and network specialist. During my career in networking, I’ve come across numerous modems, gateways, routers, and other networking hardware. I’ve installed network equipment, fixed it, designed and administrated networks, etc.
Networking is my passion, and I’m eager to share everything I know with you. On this website, you can read my modem and router reviews, as well as various how-to guides designed to help you solve your network problems. I want to liberate you from the fear that most users feel when they have to deal with modem and router settings.
My favorite free-time activities are gaming, movie-watching, and cooking. I also enjoy fishing, although I’m not good at it. What I’m good at is annoying David when we are fishing together. Apparently, you’re not supposed to talk or laugh while fishing – it scares the fishes.