Internet at sea

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Because we spend a lot of time on Te Moana, and my life depends on email and web access,(well...) I have experimented with a few services over the past few years. With common access to wireless hotspots on marinas and the latest high speed mobile internet services it has now become quite practical to get online from wherever you are. Here are some further details:

On the Marina
Many marinas, including RPAYC's have installed wireless hotspot services, allowing anyone with a laptop (with "802.1x  capability") to connect to the Internet. Usb_dishIt's easy, just open your browser and you'll automagically be connected to the Hotspot service who'll gladly take your credit card. It's typically around $12/day, with various plans available from $35/month. Last year, on our way to the Whitsundays, we used this to good effect as many of the marinas up an down the Queensland coast have the service installed. It's not that attractive if you want to just pick up your emails while on the boat on Saturday morning, but OK if you spend lots of time on the marina.
AnyPort is the RPAYC Wireless Internet Provider and has a string of NSW marinas signed up.
MarinaNet is the provider for the majority of Queensland marinas.

Everywhere else
Last year I occasionally used my GSM phone to pick up email and even to post to the Te Moana weblog. But is was very expensive and slow. Recently, third generation mobile services have made mobile high speed internet access practical. The first provider of this service (technically known as EV-DO), was "3". Recently, Telstra did a deal with them to get access to their network and combine it with their own CDMA1x service to provide a practical and relatively economical service for mobile users like yachties. They call it "wireless broadband" and while it's not quite the same speed at ADSL or Cable at home, it's pretty good.

What is it like?
You need a special modem card for your laptop and access in metropolitan areas like Sydney and Newcastle is fast a convenient. I use it on the RPAYC Marina, at sea and around town on business. Minimax1For most applications it feels about the same as my ADSL connection at home. Outside  the metropolitan area, it degrades to another standard, CDMA1X, which is adequate, somewhat faster than a conventional analog modem. Mind you, even that is much faster than the GPRS service which I used occasionally on my GSM phone last year.  It works fine at sea whenever you are within reach of a CDMA base station, in other words pretty much everywhere along the Australian coast. And off Sydney and Newcastle, you'll get the high speed EVDO service. It switches automatically between them. Of course, like mobile phone services, it doesn't work in some secluded spots, like Smiths Creek.

How much does it cost?
The new service requires a special wireless modem. either a USB modem (Minimax around $500), or a PC card modem (around $300). You'll also need an access plan. While I have a plan with Telstra Mobile, recently BigPond has also started offering plans which seem more attractive for active users. If you own a compatible modem, ou'll spend $35-$100 per month depending on your usage patterns. My plan is with Telstra Mobile and costs me  $49/month incl the modem and a meager 30Mb per month. I expect to switch over to their $99 plan which has a better download allowance. By the way, you can have a plan with Telstra Mobile based on time online or data transferred - don't take the time plan if you're expecting to use it at sea.
Telstra mobile pricing plans
Bigpond wireless plans

How hard is it to install and use?
Installation of the MiniMax modem on a Windows XP machine was very easy. The modem comes with a CD to install the required software, which went without a hitch.  Minimax softwareTo connect, simply launch the software and click "connect". The only minor hitch that I have found is that you need to quit the software before my laptop agreed to hibernate. The interface is a bit glitzy, but that a personal preference. There are no user names or passwords  to remember. We had continuous coverage when we recently cruised to Camden Haven. Amazing to have high speed internet access 6 mile off the coast of Newcastle. And the CDMA1x performance elsewhere is quite usable.

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1 Comments

Fijn van dat internet, maar van de rest (specificaties e.d.) begrijp ik echt niks. Maar het lijkt me wel leuk, lekker op de boot internetten. geeft je toch wel een heel bijzonder vakantie-gevoel, ook al ben je aan het werk. Al de bijzonderheden zouden wat voor onze engelse Mike zijn, hij zuigt het gewoon in.

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This page contains a single entry by Marius Coomans published on December 10, 2005 11:54 AM.

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