But rest assured, if there’s a WiFi problem at any of our marinas we’re doing something to resolve it quickly and efficiently; most often before anyone knows there’s a glitch.
Our response: Yes, our Networks are definitely fast, “Better Marina WiFi Hotspots”, but our Hotspots will be much faster and more efficient when using a Router/Antenna combination.
A couple of useful analogies:
we’ll supply a minimum of 3Mbps download bandwidth to each boat in the marina. That being said, we can’t promise that those speeds will be realized throughout your boat. There are too many variables to contend with, too many obstacles, and too much interference inside every boat to be able to promise such throughput. And, quite often the problem is your computer. WiFi is a 2 way street, if your computer has a weak antenna our network can’t see it and consequently can’t communicate with it. This is why onSpot recommends using a Router/Antenna/Bridge. Just like your Broadband provider at home, you need a device to effectively distribute the WiFi signal that we’ve delivered to your boat.
We’ve put together a few recommendations for devices that will not only enhance the onSpot wifi signal, but that of any other working WiFi Hotspot or Cellular connection you might come across while cruising around on your boat.
But first we’ll borrow a couple of illustrations from Ben Ellison who writes for Panbo.com This may help to better understand the concept.
We respectfully disagree with Ben’s Con list. Range with most Router/Antenna combinations is pretty amazing and if connecting to an onSpot wifi Marina security is as good as it gets. Inconsistent availability? Yes, but we’re working hard to change that.
Link to Panbo’s story: Onboard WiFi and Cell Booster Strategies, the diagrams
What equipment should I buy? We’ll start with the least expensive and easiest to install:
We love this little device. It’s only $100.00, easy to setup, very powerful for it’s size, and no installation… just plug it into any 110 outlet, configure, and start surfing.
Think of the Surf On The Go as the Swiss Army Knife of WiFi devices; in small ways it does many things… and does them well.
For boats <40′, one SOTG will work well. For larger boats, (<60′) you may want to use two SOTGs in order to spread out coverage. One for Saloon, one for the Stateroom. Or, just move one SOTG from room to room.
A simple, but effective, network for your boat. $200.00, no costly installation, and you’ve lit up your entire boat.
We use the new Aigean LINKs on our test boat and like them a lot. onSpot wifi offers both 2.4G and 5G connections at all of our marinas so we installed both LINK 2 and LINK 5 units to test and take advantage of these signals. We do recommend the 5G units while staying at onSpot marinas. The 5G band is normally much faster and less crowded. It’s not unusual to see speeds of 20+Mbps down when using 5G.
The LINKs are connected via Ethernet cables running from the Radar Arch down to a Peplink Balance 30 router. We like this router because it offers 3 separate connections. 2.4, 5G, and Cellular signals are distributed throughout the boat. Separately or concurrently.
But, any decent Dual Band Router with LINKs attached will work well.
Technical Stuff: The Aigean LINKs are the same Ubiquity Bullets that several other companies offer.
What sets them apart? First and foremost, they are much faster than the old Wave WiFi Bullet devices we were using. Second, we like Aigean’s User Interface. It’s simple, quick to navigate, and provides intuitive and easy to use tools to better manage your connection. Yes, Aigean is a new company but they are the former R&D and Support guys for Wave WiFi. (Can we say that?) Years of experience with the marine WiFi biz is a huge plus for us. They listen to their customers and they’re quick to adapt to our needs.
Aigean has all the products needed to put together a powerful, state of the art, network on your boat; no matter the size.
More info from Land and Sea
The Aigean LINK series is a lightweight wireless client used to improve your signal strength and quality when connecting to outside networks, such as those at marinas.
Designed primarily for smaller boats, the LINK Series offers great performance in a compact, weatherproof, cost-effective package.
Both installation and operation are very simple. Mount the LINK on a rail or stanchion with the included mount, run the Ethernet cable below deck and plug into your computer or existing network.
LINK2: 2.4 GHz only version. (standard)
LINK5: 5 GHz only version.
These folks have also been around for a long time and offer excellent service. We’ve never used their products, but we have supported them on our networks and they do work well. Island PC has a great reputation amongst us in the cruising community.
Island PC’s Groove product is Dual Band, but not concurrent. So you’ll have to pick a band and configure it for that band and marina.
Island PC has all the products you need to create a network on your vessel.
We have tested the Mikrotic Groove and it is an excellent alternative to the Ubiquity Bullet. We did have issues with the lack of mounting options. Also, the Mikrotic Groove’s user interface is complicated and will be very difficult for even the more technical boaters to configure … Hence Island PC.
We’ve not used this product, but while traveling in the Bahamas, we have heard many good things about it. Supposedly, If there’s a decent Cellular signal the Wirie Pro has the hardware to amplify and improve it. Inside the colorful, water/weatherproof enclosure you’ll find the components that will pull in almost any over the air WiFi connection there is. (Except 5G).
So, if you’re in the Exumas and have The Wirie Pro, theoretically, you can use Batelco’s Cell Net and bypass onSpot’s very expensive, but dependable, Satellite internet. Our test boat will have one of these before we head back to the islands…. Satellite Internet is expensive for us too.
Another advantage of The Wirie Pro would be enjoying internet access while cruising remote sections of the ICW or running offshore, close to the coast. This would be quite helpful for weather and booking marinas while on the go.
Bitstorm’s very popular Bad Boy also utilizes a Ubiquity Bullet. We’ve never tested one but from what we can tell they work well as a Bullet usually does. We’re not sure if there is a 5G version, but if not there will probably be one soon.
Cut from Bitstorm’s site:
BAD BOY Xtreme N and Xtreme MJ are high power Wi-Fi solutions with up to 7 mile (~11km) range*. Output power up to 4W (36dBm) EIRP (Effective Isotropic Radiated Power) – the highest power legally allowed – for rock solid, high speed connections. Input power is 5-30 Volt DC or 100-250 Volt AC 50/60Hz (via optional AC adaptor). No power robbing USB connections. Xtreme is an unobtrusive, small and compact wi-fi transceiver that can be mounted on a rail, arch or masthead. Features a user friendly web-based interface developed by Bitstorm so there’s never any software to install. Easy to set-up and install. Xtreme is powered by the same cable that transfers the data which means there is only a single cable. Xtreme includes a custom developed matched and tuned antenna for best possible range and reception. It’s no wonder these BAD BOY‘s have gotten a reputation!
Another product that we’ve not tested but one that’s creating some buzz within the cruising community. It appears to be a Bullet type of device with a Pepwave SOTG like router (Optimizer) in the package. No, we’ve not tested this product but it does look interesting. And, they are nice folks from Marysville, Tennessee so it can’t be bad.
The only negative that we can see: No 5G only 2.4G. onSpot installs 5G at all our marinas and we recommend it’s use.
The RedPort Halo system includes:
With the RedPort Halo long-range Wi-Fi extension system, you can get Wi-Fi from farther away, accelerate your connection by a factor of 3 to 5 times, and then share that Wi-Fi connection throughout your boat, truck, camp, etc.
onSpot suggests buying an Antenna/Router/Bridge from one of the recommended companies on this list above. These companies have support systems in place, they take the complications out of configuring a Bullet or Groove, and they’ll constantly be creating and distributing firmware updates that will enhance the longevity and performance of your device—specifically for it’s intended environment —Your Boat
If you’re so inclined and have the technical skills needed, you can save quite a bit of money by purchasing a raw Ubiquity Bullet and configure it to do the task.
If you are such a boater, you’re probably not reading this blog post anyway; you already know this.
Like the Ubiquity Bullet, this can be a complicated device to set up, but if you, or you have technically talented friends, can configure this device, it will save you money. The Groove is a fast/inexpensive little bridge/antenna.
You can spend a little: Pepwave SOTG, unconfigured Ubiquity Bullet or Mikrotik Goove, a bit more: Aigean LINK, Bad Boy, Island PC, Wirie, but all of the devices on our list are quality products. With the proper installation and configuration, they all will work well at onSpot wifi Marinas or other marinas with working WiFi.
We have tested most of these products, but we don’t sell or install them so our opinions are just that. We have no financial affiliation with any of these companies and nothing to gain from any boater using any device on this list — other than a happier boater using our network. — And after all, that is our goal.
We hope this helps to make your time online a more enjoyable experience.