Our Boat’s Network

Our main router is the Pepwave Max Transit Duo. It has two modems so it generally stays connected to both carriers all the time, and I can configure priority between them. When one fails, switching between them is instantaneous and automatic, even right in the middle of a call. No interruption.

We primarily rely on the LTE-Cellular carriers (VZW & T-Mobile) … marina WiFi not so much.

When using marina WiFi, however, we found having a separate basic WiFi router (e.g. WiFi Ranger model: “Poplar”) was much more reliable than expecting the Pepwave to handle BOTH the boat’s WiFi devices AND the marina WiFi connections. A short CAT 5 cable connects the Ranger into the Pepwave WAN port. (When we use this, our devices simply stay connected to the same SSID on the Pepwave.)

A directional yagi antenna pointed at the marina’s WiFi also enhances reliability, even from slips quite some distance away.

Antennas are the key to success.

Two vertical MiMo M39T with good quality coax give us omni directional Internet connectivity to the carriers. The M39T was chosen because it provides good gain on all cellular bands used in North America including Band 71, the 600 mHz band that T-Mobile is building out on. This lower frequency band has better propagation at longer distances for mobile applications like boats and RVs.

Through the rivers from Chicago to Mobile AL we had reliable Internet in all but a few spots. Shelly’s music streaming and my Zoom meetings and office IP telephone worked well most everywhere!

A few Internet resources which were helpful in our decision making:

mobilemusthave.com

technomadia.com

antennagear.net (M39T source)

An excellent (very technical) youtube webinar on engineering LTE antenna systems on ships and cruisers:https://youtu.be/v24MqUQMxXI

Total cost for everything described was just under $2000. Reliable Internet for our boat’s network is a “business expense!” Ray still works full time, so we can justify a well-designed system that can adapt well to a variety of marine settings.

While that may sound like a lot of money to some, “How much does a new chart plotter with radar cost? How about Auto Pilot?! There are several systems on a live-aboard boat like this one. Internet is simply one of those systems.

As an IT professional, I design networks to work reliably.

Latest news on 5G:

youtube.com/watch?v=HtWeClwgExw