Best Internet for Boaters

Best overall
Starlink
Starlink Maritime
  • pro
    $250.00/mo. + one time $2,500.00 equipment fee
  • pro
    Best open-ocean internet option for boats
  • con
    Very expensive
Most affordable
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet
  • pro
    $40.00—$50.00/mo.* + no equipment fee
  • con
    Only for stationary boats
  • con
    Strict terms of service
Best for emergencies
garmin-inreach-mini
Garmin inReach Mini 2
  • pro
    $379.00 + $14.98/mo. for safety service plan
  • pro
    Internet access anywhere
  • con
    Limited communication options

*with existing T-Mobile 5G phone plan


Hannah Rivera
Jan 24, 2024
bullet6 min read

Where do I start if I need internet on my boat?

We know how difficult it can be to find a stable connection when you have an alternative lifestyle—like living in a houseboat or actively sailing at sea. Fortunately, you have multiple options, but the best internet option for your boat depends entirely on whether you’re permanently docked or travel offshore on long stretches of open ocean.

Overall, our top recommendations for internet at sea include Starlink Maritime, satellite hotspots, and satellite phones. Read on to find out why our team hand-picked these for all your maritime needs. We’ll start with internet options that are best for boats at sea, as the services are more specific and limited. But we haven’t forgotten about those of you in stationary houseboats—we’ll get that pool of options in a later section.

Our top recommendation: Starlink Maritime

What is Starlink Maritime?

Starlink Maritime is satellite internet for boats. It uses constellations of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to bring you fast and expansive coverage, meaning you can usually find an internet connection even in the middle of the ocean, far from traditional internet infrastructure.

Starlink advertises its boat internet under the Maritime label, but it’s actually the same as the Mobile Priority plans. Mobile Priority is the name Starlink uses to separate their in-motion plans from their fixed location plans. Starlink Mobile Priority (Maritime, aka Starlink for boats) allows you to be cable-free and connected even when you’re speeding across miles of sea.

Starlink Maritime pros:

  • There are no long-term contracts.
  • You can cancel or pause service any time.
  • You get fast speeds (40–220+Mbps download).
  • The satellite dish is entirely weatherproof.
  • The satellite dish has customizable mounting options.
  • The base plan monthly fee is affordable compared to its competitors.

Starlink Maritime cons:

  • The upfront equipment cost is expensive.
  • According to Starlink’s fair use policy, if you’re on open water, you’ll lose internet access entirely once you use up your priority data allotment.
Starlink Maritime Plan
Price*
Data cap**
Speeds
Mobile Priority 50GB$250.00/mo. + one-time $2,500.00 hardware feeUp to 50GB of high-speed data, after which you will lose access to the internet. 40–220Mbps download
Mobile Priority 1TB$1,000.00/mo. + one-time $2,500.00 hardware feeUp to 1TB of high-speed data, after which you will lose access to the internet. 40–220Mbps download
Mobile Priority 5TB$5,000.00/mo. + one-time $2,500.00 hardware feeUp to 5TB of high-speed data, after which you will lose access to the internet. 40–220Mbps download

*Plus hardware, shipping & handling fees, and tax. Fully refundable. Depending on location, some orders may take 2 weeks or more to fulfill. **Unlimited mobile data inland.

Starlink’s Maritime (Mobile Priority) plans require the $2,500 flat high-performance satellite hardware. This satellite dish is designed to be mounted directly onto your boat. It’s weatherproof and can connect to multiple satellites, so you can enjoy the service in motion without interruption.

When it comes to installing the hardware on your boat, you generally want to get the satellite as high up and away from obstacles in its field of view as possible. Starlink’s app has a tool that helps you check for obstructions while installing, to ensure the location you’ve chosen is exactly where it has the best field of view.

On top of that, Starlink also offers two mounting hardware and cable length options so you can tailor your Starlink satellite installation to your existing boat setup.  

Is Starlink Maritime worth it?

Overall, we think Starlink Maritime is totally worth the money, even if it is, again, a lot of money. It provides the most reliable, high-speed connection out of most offshore internet options. The in-motion satellite is extremely durable, so you don’t have to worry about the extreme marine weather damaging your satellite.

But, if Starlink’s premium price and fancy features are too far out of your boating budget, keep reading to find more cost-effective and bare-bones satellite alternatives for Wi-Fi at sea. 

Satellite hotspots

What is a satellite hotspot?

Satellite hotspots aren’t really hotspots—at least not in the way we usually think of them. The devices that have become known as satellite hotspots are actually satellite communicators that can turn your existing smartphone into a satellite phone. It’s a nice feature to have out on the open water, so you can still use your phone without cellular data.

Here are our favorite devices that use satellite data to turn your phone into a satellite phone:

Device
Price
Sat Coverage
Starting plan
See More
$995.00*Global10 minutes, 10 texts for $65.00/mo.
$149.00*Global 25 messages for $20.00/mo.

*Data as of 12/11/23

The real reason you’d pick a satellite hotspot over a basic satellite phone is for the smartphone compatibility feature. This could be worth it for you if you don’t want to stop using your actual smartphone, or if you want some of the extra features these devices come with.

Both satellite hotspots we’ve showcased above come with multiple plans, but we’ve picked the cheapest month-to-month options available. Keep in mind that some satellite phone and hotspot providers require an activation cost every time you pick the service back up after canceling.

Overall, we’ll admit it, satellite phones are usually a bit clunky and not exactly designed for aesthetic purposes, so if that’s important to you, you might opt for one on the list above rather than any of the coming satellite phone suggestions.

Satellite phones

Okay, we know satellite phones might not be something you were looking for originally—they aren’t exactly what you think of when you say internet for boats—but they’re an essential emergency tool for those who spend any amount of time on the ocean, especially if you’re alone. They may not let you stream Netflix, but you can text and send location updates in places without any other communication services, and that’s a crucial backup option for emergencies at sea.

Device
Price
Details
See more
$379.00*● 14–30 days of battery life
● Affordable service plans
$149.00*● 200+ hours of battery life
● Satellite hotspot capability
$699.00*● 10 hours of battery life
● Emergency services only

*Data as of 12/11/23

The Garmin inReach Mini 2 is small and mighty. Its compact design won us over, especially  considering its impressive feature set. Garmin provides a 24/7 service team, weather forecasting, and global satellite network coverage.

The Zoleo Satellite Communicator is a close second to the Garmin, as it can also share live location. Its battery isn’t as long-lasting, but 200 hours isn’t too bad overall. This little device is shock, dust, and water resistant. 

An iPhone isn’t the ideal phone for boaters, as its satellite SOS feature’s main focus is roadside assistance. Still, using the satellite SOS feature will allow emergency services to locate you in the event of a disaster. Well, as long as you can keep it from sinking.

Is a satellite phone worth it?

Let’s keep it simple: Satellite phones are more than worth it—they’re essential for maritime travel. Even if you’re not running a commercial fishing boat, you really should have a satellite phone if you spend any amount of time out of range of cell service in your boat.

Internet for boaters near land

If you spend most of your boating days cruising just a few miles offshore, or you keep your houseboat docked in the marina, you have more plentiful options for internet service than someone coasting out on the open ocean. The closer proximity expands your internet options to wireless services that rely on cell towers—even plans strictly designed for stationary residences.

5G home internet

If you live on a houseboat or are permanently docked right offshore, we recommend a 5G home internet service. 5G speeds are generally fast, so you can use the internet at a high capacity without many interruptions, even on the water.

Provider
Starting price
Special info
Learn more
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet$40.00—$50.00/mo.** ● No annual contract
● Largest 5G network
● Price locked (forever)
Verizon$35.00/mo.** ● No annual contract
● Unlimited standard data
● Price locked (limited time)

*w/ Auto Pay. Regulatory fees included in monthly price for qualified accounts. $35 price w/ qualifying phone plan. See full terms. **w/ Auto Pay and select 5G mobile plans. Available in select areas.

5G internet is a great option for houseboats or boats that are docked long-term. Both Verizon and T-Mobile offer great home internet service options, but don’t get any ideas about using either of them while your boat is in motion. Both providers’ terms of service explicitly state your service may be terminated if you are caught using it while in motion rather than one permanent address.

Looking for internet at home too? Enter your zip code below and find the best internet providers in your area.

Mobile hotspots

Mobile hotspots can be a great option for boat internet in the right cases—like getting internet while sailing close to the shore. If you're still within range of cell towers, a mobile hotspot can provide you with a reliable internet connection.

However, once you move out of range from those cell towers, the signal fades away. So, if you’d like to use your internet further than a few miles offshore, a mobile hotspot won’t do you any good.

Wrap-up: Best options for internet on your boat

If you’re a marine-adventure-seeking reader and plan to spend time on the open ocean, we recommend Starlink Maritime for the fastest and most reliable internet connection at sea. We also recommend having a satellite phone if you’re spending extended periods of time out on the ocean, so they can bridge the communication gap between you and emergency services.

If you’re permanently docked in your houseboat or sailing within a few miles off the shore, we recommend mobile hotspots as a really flexible and compact internet option for your boat.

Methodology

Our team uses hands-on product testing, unbiased customer reviews (sourced from interviews and/or online sources like Quora and Reddit), and our proprietary internal data, sourced from tools and surveys that give us up-to-date and accurate information, to confidently advise our readers. This way, we ensure our articles are chock-full of actually helpful data, so you can rely on us to help guide you in your decision-making process.

Internet for Boats FAQ

What are the best satellite internet options for boaters?

Starlink Maritime is currently the fastest and most readily available satellite internet service specifically designed for boats.

Can I use my regular mobile hotspot while on the water?

This depends on how far out you’re planning to go—since your mobile hotspot relies on cell tower access to give you a viable hotspot, the farther from the shore you are, the worse your hotspot will perform. However, your mobile hotspot should operate fine if you’re just a few miles offshore.

Are there data plans for boating or marine use?

Yes. They’re offered by telecommunication companies (such as SeaSat) and focus on ensuring reliable internet access in offshore locations. Be warned, these plans are usually extremely pricey and not as reliable as satellite internet services for boats, like Starlink Maritime.

What is the difference between satellite phones and satellite internet for boats?

Satellite phones are designed for voice communication and are most useful for calls, texts, and emergency services in very remote stretches of the ocean. Satellite internet service is for full internet connectivity, enabling satellite data transfer for things like web browsing, email, and advanced navigation systems.

Hannah Rivera
Written by
Hannah Rivera
Hannah is new to freelancing, but not to the tech world. She grew up with the internet at her fingertips and has been following along with tech trends since the dawn of Facebook. She is dedicated to making tech information more digestible and accessible to the general public, and she writes for anyone who needs it.