How do I get the best signal from Wi-Fi hotspots at the marina?
Using a booster will help you make the best of wimpy Wi-Fi at a marina. Most marinas have some sort of Wi-Fi connection available (whether it’s paid or included in the price of docking your rig). But the quality of marina Wi-Fi varies widely. A lot of the problems with marina Wi-Fi boil down to high usage, bad network design, lots of interference from metal and glass, and poor technical support. You may need to walk around the dock to get a signal.
If you intend to use marina Wi-Fi for anything other than the most casual of social media browsing, or on multiple devices, you’ll need to outfit your boat with the right equipment.
How much does satellite internet for boats cost?
Satellite internet for boats costs $300 per GB of data, which is much more expensive than data on land. Equipment costs several thousand dollars as well, varying depending on your setup.
The cheapest satellite internet for boats is going to be a low bandwidth satellite phone communicator with GPS, mapping, and texting capabilities, like the Garmin inReach Explorer+ that’s priced below $450. You’ll also need a six-month Iridium talk and text satellite plan, which starts at $349.99.
Can I get online on a boat using a cellular data plan and a hotspot?
Yes, getting a mobile hotspot and a cellular data-only plan (or a phone plan with a generous data allowance) is a good way to connect along the shoreline and while cruising at inland lakes and rivers.
Boaters who plan to use cellular data will need a booster to extend the signal. Be aware that even with a booster, your signal will probably go in and out as you cruise along the coast.
For most recreational boaters, cellular service from AT&T, Verizon, or another mobile provider will be the fastest and most affordable way to get internet on a boat. Cellular signals don’t travel very far, so don’t expect steady service while cruising across the Gulf of Mexico or sailing along the outer banks of North Carolina.
How much data do I need on a boat?
Internet data use on a boat varies from person to person, depending on how heavily they rely on the internet and what they’re doing online. Basic tasks like navigation and text messages use very little data, while streaming video uses a lot of data.
Some cruisers disconnect from technology while out on the water and need the internet only for GPS and emergency service. These boaters catch up with family and friends while docked at marinas and use less than 1 GB per week while out at sea. Others who will be working remotely throughout their journeys or using the internet recreationally on a luxury yacht will use much more data.