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Old 06-27-2019, 02:31 PM   #1
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WiFi Range Extender vs MiFi Hotspot vs etc

We're wondering what everyone is using for internet access.

1. WiFi Range Extender
2. MiFi Hotspot
3. Phone hotspot
4. Direct cable connection at the dock
5. Other

We have a Redport Halo wifi ranger extender and it does a fine job most of the time at the marina. When a lot of other people are hitting the wifi, it still slows down a bit.

During our recent cruise, we were anchored out in a bay surrounded by trees. The range extender picked up the only unsecured connection, two miles away and blocked by the trees. The best signal it could get was only 47% strength so it was more or less unusable. We used our cellphones as hotspots but that chewed up our data pretty fast.

Our goal is a wifi zone on the boat that is persistent when away from the marina so we're thinking about a mobile MiFi hotspot with a large data cap.

Thanks.

John
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Old 06-27-2019, 02:41 PM   #2
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When we were moving our boat home from Virginia we pretty much gave up on the marina wifi since it usually was not worth fiddling with. We used our phone hotspots for checking email and some surfing the internet but we didn’t do any streaming. Our data plan is rather small currently and we bump it up when we are cruising but it still won’t support streaming.
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Old 06-27-2019, 02:55 PM   #3
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I have used my iPhone as a hot spot when we were traveling to provide a wifi signal to my laptop. It worked pretty good but required 2+ bars. But now I just use my iPad's cell connectivity which also requires about the same 2+ bar signal strength to work.


If you need wifi for your laptop or maybe streaming TV then a mifi hot spot might give you the connectivity you need plus a better transmitter/amplifier than your cell phone can provide.


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Old 06-27-2019, 02:56 PM   #4
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Internet on the boat consists of 3 core pieces -

1. Mikrotik Groove 52ac mounted on the Mast to connect to Marina Wifi or Public Wifi Hotsposts
2. Netgear LB1120 LTE Modem that kicks in when Groove doesn't have any internet
3. Amplifi Router that all the devices in the boat connect to

This is all connected together so provides a seamless experience. You can also disable the cellular data to not come on automatically if you are concerned about data limits.

We easily pickup wifi hotspots over .5 mile away at anchorages and can stream HD TV.
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Old 06-27-2019, 03:00 PM   #5
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Yes, but then you have to be able to get them hooked up and configured in order for it to work. Some of us are not too great at that...
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Old 06-27-2019, 05:41 PM   #6
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I bought but haven't installed one of these Glomex WeBBoat - WeBBoat 4G IT1004 theNwe Internet Aantenna 4G/WI-FI I've read mixed reviews on this but if it works even 50% of advertised it will serve my purpose. It acts as a failover router and with 2 sim cards when we are in Canada it will auto select Canadian based Sim card.... The device defaults to Wifi and will only use the cell connection when no wifi is available...
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Old 06-27-2019, 06:10 PM   #7
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WiFi Range Extender vs MiFi Hotspot vs etc

I gave up on WiFi extenders, routers etc. years ago. We now rely on a simple “jet pack” from Verizon. With a North America plan it works great in B.C. The device connects to cell towers via cellular data then outputs a WiFi signal that our devices connect to. We used it in the RV when in Mexico too.
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Old 06-28-2019, 07:05 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nwboater View Post
I gave up on WiFi extenders, routers etc. years ago. We now rely on a simple “jet pack” from Verizon. With a North America plan it works great in B.C. The device connects to cell towers via cellular data then outputs a WiFi signal that our devices connect to. We used it in the RV when in Mexico too.

I have one of those Jetpacks with "unlimited" data too, and so far, so good from Lake Erie to New Hampshire. We also have "unlimited" data plans on our phones and my ipad, so there hasn't been a need to connect to wifi yet.
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Old 06-28-2019, 09:51 AM   #9
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After researching the different options, unlimited carrier plans, etc... it looks like we're going to upgrade the data plan on my ATT phone to Unlimited Premium. We'll also keep the wifi range extender for times when we're within range of an unsecured wifi zone or a zone for which we have the password.

The upgrade to Unlimited Premium on my phone won't cost that much additional per month. It has much broader LTE coverage than Sprint or T-Mobile. The Unlimited part doesn't throttle like Verizon. After reaching 22 GB, they "may" slow the speeds down during peak periods in high traffic areas. I've spoken with people who anchor remotely and they said they experience no slowdowns since they're not in high traffic areas (big cities).

Thanks for the feedback and input, everyone!

John
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Old 06-28-2019, 10:12 AM   #10
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Take a look at the ATT Nighthawk Hotspot - really works well and supports up to 20 devices. I would recommenced getting ATT's 'unlimited' data plan - Netflix uses 1Gig/hr With the unlimited plan you get 20 Gig/mo before they start throttling the speed back. Must be in ATT cell range for this to work - will be perfect for TN river and Great Loop, not so much for blue water cruising.
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Old 06-28-2019, 10:46 AM   #11
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We just installed the Winegard WiFi Range Extender and LTE Hotspot device (Winegard ConnecT - Marine Internet WiFi Extender + 4G LTE). So far it works well in the marina to better pick up a nearby Xfinity WiFi hotspot, but the real test will be how well it transitions to LTE when we are out cruising (full test soon as we head north into Canadian Gulf Islands).

The device is self-contained and fairly easy to install and operate (at least so far). I do have it hardwired to a separate ASUS router, but the built-in router seems to provide a decent signal throughout the boat.

Winegard provides ability to access AT&T network with 30 day pre-paid data plans at fairly reasonable pricing. We really liked the idea of only needing to pay for a plan during the months we would be cruising.
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Old 06-28-2019, 12:55 PM   #12
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Verizon unlimited data worked for me up and down the keys. Phone or iPad hotspot would even run Hulu stick on the tv. Sometimes.
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Old 07-05-2019, 12:55 PM   #13
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We used our Verizon MY FI from Annapolis down to FL. Worked well but it really slows down after 15G with unlimited data. Even then we could still stream through our Roku.
I was told by Verizon to be careful using your phone as a hot spot.
During that same trip our friend burned up her phone because they had 2 people on board using it.
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Old 07-05-2019, 01:12 PM   #14
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We use a 802.11 antenna mounted to the top of the pilot house. With an amp and converter to RJ45.

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Old 07-05-2019, 01:51 PM   #15
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I use a mix of some similar things cited here already:

Peplink MAX Transit router - this provides both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz WiFi networks inside the boat, and has tons of features to manage bandwidth usage when you're out and about.

It also has dual SIM slots - I use T-Mobile and Verizon unlimited SIMs and can flip back and forth easily between these. Verizon in the US, and T-Mobile in Canada.

To get a good cellular signal, I use a weBoost Drive amplifier and an external marine antenna. This has pulled in LTE/3G signals in places where I never thought I could get coverage at all. The internal antenna is a few inches away from the cellular antennas on the Peplink, and is also in the center of the salon, so handheld phones get signal too.

For WiFi boosting, I use the MikroTik Groove connected to the WAN port of the Peplink. I use it a lot at my home marina where there are Comcast WiFi open points I can snag, but in many other locations it isn't that useful, as others have said. Marina WiFi systems are unreliable in many cases, or are just too far away. I do recommend the Groove though, as it handles both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz networks, and if you can get 5Ghz, it is usually quite reliable.

I wrote about most of this for my previous boat, but definitely need to update it for the new one as some minor items have changed.
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Old 07-06-2019, 06:35 AM   #16
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John
We are a little over 30 days into an extended cruise using a Verizon MiFi and their "Jumbo" plan w 16 Gig data.
I needed coverage in Canada and that seemed to be our best option. There may be others if only US is reqd. So far connection has been good in areas I thought might be problematic but spotty in some I would not have guessed. When in a marina I sometimes connect to theirs if decent quality.
The Jumbo plan is not listed / advertised but my local Verizon guy called a Corp contact for recommendations and that was what they suggested.
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Old 07-11-2019, 06:59 AM   #17
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As a follow up to the thread...

I upped my data plan to unlimited, which included 15 gb of hotspot. My step son gave me his old Galaxy S6 phone. I added it to my plan for only $35/month. Between the two phones, we now have 30 gb of hotspot coverage. The hotspots on both phone are named the same so we can turn one off when it reaches the limit, turn the other on, and all of the devices that were configured to connect to one should be able to connect to the other (though we haven't tried that part yet).

Yesterday, I worked from the boat. I started off connecting the work laptop to the wifi range extender but the signal kept dropping. Out comes the cellphone, activate the hotspot, and connect the laptop to it. Back in business and it was stable all day, including audio/video conferencing, screen sharing, etc. My wife was also using the hotspot to connect her iPad. With all of that activity, at the end of the day, only .5 gb was used.

I think we've found our solution. The S6 will remain onboard as the permanent wifi node.

Thanks for all of the input.

John
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Old 07-11-2019, 07:27 AM   #18
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My boat has a onboard network.

This is based on a router that can use a variety of connections. I have two cellular data providers plus satellite back up. Pretty much anywhere in the world I have an Internet connection.

This enables me to have things like alarming, cameras, and of course entertainment. I even have a VoIP connection back to my companies PBX so that I can run my business at sea.
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Old 07-11-2019, 03:34 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nwboater View Post
I gave up on WiFi extenders, routers etc. years ago. We now rely on a simple “jet pack” from Verizon. With a North America plan it works great in B.C. The device connects to cell towers via cellular data then outputs a WiFi signal that our devices connect to. We used it in the RV when in Mexico too.
THIS


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Old 07-11-2019, 03:47 PM   #20
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The S6 will remain onboard as the permanent wifi node.
Mind how it gets charged and the on-going condition of the battery. I've had two different S6 phones eventually develop battery swelling problems. Both were replaced gratis by Verizon.

An unattended phone (regardless of brand) with a modern Lithium battery installed is perhaps asking for potential trouble unless you're diligent about monitoring it's battery condition. Most phones while capable of being light-use temporary hotspots are not suitable for a nailed up constant connection.
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