Email us: info@picosense.com.au
Phone: 0409 270 862

Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Guide to Internet on boats

The definitive guide to getting fast and reliable internet on your boat.
 

Whether you want internet on board for pleasure or business use, the desire for the highest speed and reliability remains the same. There should be no reason to compromise on marine internet access when travelling around the Australian coast. This guide will step you through the do's, dont's and myths relating to getting and maintaining a reliable and fast internet connection on your boat.

Antennas

Possibly the most discussed and controversial topic is related to antenna choice and location. The simple fact is that you need to get your antennas mounted as high as possible. They must be suited to the marine environment and mounted such as to not obstruct the operation of the boat at anytime. On a sailing boat, a good location is often on the first set of spreaders.

I mention antennas rather than just antenna because with many new modems they have the capability to utilise 2 antennas for increased speeds. Therefore often you might see two identical antennas mounted on the spreaders, one each side of the mast.
While not a requirement, it does serve to give you the best performance possible. On a power boat, antenna location is best on the top of a radar arch or fly bridge superstructure. One size and type of antenna does not fit all, and for this reason I have not included any specific antenna details.

Coax Cabling

Following closely behind antenna choice and location in importance is antenna cable. You *must* ensure you use the highest quality coax cable for the connection from the antennas to the modem.   Keeping the coax cable runs as short as possible is also going to help. Locating the modem below decks as close as possible to where the coax comes through the deck is often a good option.

Modem Choice

There are 3 must haves when choosing a suitable modem for your boat.

1) Must have an external antenna option, the built in stubby antennas just won't work.
2) The modem must not consume much power and ideally have a direct 12/24v DC connection
3) The modem must be suitable for the marine environment.

At PicoSense we use and recommend the Comset range of modems for a number of reasons. Apart from satisfying all the must haves listed above, they are small and compact and can be nicely hidden away and almost forgotten about.   They have a wide operating temperature range and excellent reliability.

Comset marine modem

Modem Features

In most instances, you will be wanting to connect to the internet using your devices Wi-Fi connection. In this regard, almost all modem/routers include Wi-Fi and have similar configuration options as your home Wi-Fi. At PicoSense we are happy to pre-configure modems and Wi-Fi connections prior to shipping so you don't have to worry about this. The Comset modems we recommend include external antenna options for Wi-Fi as well as the 4G/3G connection.

Depending on your boat type/size you may wish to add a Wi-Fi antenna to increase range, however in most cases the stubby antenna that is supplied with the unit is more than sufficient to provide Wi-Fi around an average sized boat (even on the fly bridge).

Most modems include at least 1 wired LAN connection. This is handy for devices which don't have Wi-Fi and require internet access.  I need to mention here also that tethering to your phone for internet access just won't work reliably and will utilise a lot of battery power.

Choice of Telco

Simply put, if you are in Australia, Telstra is your only reliable option for marine internet access. The Comset modem we recommend works on the 4Gx/4G/3G bands and can switch between them. Telstra have excellent coverage around Australia in at least one of these bands.   Contact PicoSense for more information on this, including Telstra data costs and services.

Benefits of Internet on board

In a lot of cases, if you have good quality antennas and are operating in and around a coastal port area you will have much faster access to the internet than a typical home ADSL connection.   Many people are now choosing to operate their business from their boat and this is entirely possible nowerdays. Having an "always on" internet connection is handy for quick weather updates, BoM radar checking, not to mention being able to stay in contact with family and friends in this connected world we all now live in.

Summary

Getting an internet connection on your boat should not be a difficult task. Don't let manufacturers confuse you with terms and lingo that they know most will not understand. Speak to us at PicoSense about what you want to achieve and we will come up with a solution to fit your budget and ensure that you fully understand all aspects of the technology and hardware.