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 seems to be 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 its 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 in so much that one operator’s SIM package will support them in most situations up to maybe 15 miles offshore, but there are still “blind 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 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 router to provide a quality connection for both fixed devices on a wired network or via wi-fi to the various smartphones, 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.