30 Jun The Case for 3G/4G data at Sea
The Case for 3G/4G data at Sea
The information age has proved expensive for those who live and work at sea. The burgeoning requirement for internet access in all walks has put increased pressure on owners and operators to provide high speed internet access available to crews and guests on board, but the use of Vsat has until recently proved an expensive and relatively slow solution.
Now skippers are turning to the use of shore based mobile networks to deliver the sort of high speed connectivity that users require, and whilst the solution is good it also brings it’s own challenges in choosing the right kit for the job and also keeping up to date with the wide range of data SIM card packages available in different countries. Add to this mix the lack of a global standard set of operating systems and radio frequencies and it is not surprising that a certain amount of confusion exists.
Vessels operating in coastal waters in individual countries have an easier choice insomuch that one operators SIM package will support them in most situations up to maybe 15 miles offshore, but there are still “not spots” to be encountered where there is little or no signal and there are still areas where one operator provides coverage and another doesn’t. Travelling across borders creates other problems as data roaming from one country’s operator to another is prohibitively expensive and largely impractical.
However, the problems apart, lying at anchor close to the shore or in marinas, there is generally a good opportunity to use a 3G/4G modem or router to provide a quality connection for both fixed devices on a wired network or via wi-fi to the various smart-phones, laptops and tablets that are all hungry for data. In such situations the costs against Vsat are comparatively minimal and worthy of the time and effort invested by the diligent captain to provide this increasingly essential service.
- Speak to specialist providers
- Use external antenna systems where possible to improve signal range and quality
- Dual SIM modems make life much easier when operating across borders
- EU frequencies for 3G are 2100 and 900Mhz, 4G/LTE uses 2600, 2100, 1800, 900 and 800Mhz
- North America and Caribbean is a minefield of different networks and individual operating systems, be warned! As a rule stick to 3G/HSPA+ devices on 1900 and 850Mhz – 4G and LTE will restrict you to individual operators such as AT&T, Sprint or Verizon – don’t go there!