Best boat Internet systems

I get asked a lot to recommend the best Internet setup for boats. Below are my recommended system designs. There are several different choices depending on your technical ability and budget.

Revision History
2019 – September – Created
2019 – December – new best LTE antenna – Poynting
2020 – August – updated link to new system on Rendezvous + Nighthawk + CAT18 options

Choosing a system

There are generally two major variables in choosing a system – your budget and your skills.

My advice when choosing a system: spend as much as you can budget-wise to ensure you get the highest performing, easiest to use system with the most features. Just like many other industries, you get what you pay for, and if you go cheap, you will need to do more work to set it up, or have missing features. I prefer to spend my time enjoying the water and the views when I am out and about, rather than mess with the Internet connection.

Many people choose the cheapest option first, which always amuses me – if you consider Internet access to be pretty critical, spend as much money and time on it as you do on your power system, engine, sails, etc.  

If you want to see my current system, check out Rendezvous internet setup for 2020

Systems

The systems below will get you the following base features:

  • On board WiFi network using both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz frequencies
  • Connection to an LTE provider of your choice for Internet connectivity
  • At least one LAN Ethernet port to connect wired devices

You can add various options including outdoor antennas, amplifiers, remote WiFi boosters, and switches. See further down the page for details on those options.

Top of the Line – Pepwave MAX Transit – $899+

This solution is the best on the market right now in terms of flexibility, options, and performance. It is an enterprise-grade, mobile router that not only will accept two or more SIM cards for LTE internet, but spits out both 2.4 and 5Ghz WiFi, has a ton of features, and is an all around solid performer. I’ve been using Pepwave products for almost 15 years now, and they consistently outperform everything else I have tested. I highly recommend any of their routers – I even use their Balance series at home and on land and VPN them together.

The MAX Transit series comes in two flavors – one with two SIM slots and one radio (MAX Transit), and one with 4 SIM slots and two radios, called the MAX Transit Duo. I would only recommend the Transit Duo if you require two simultaneous LTE connections for bandwidth or redundancy. The Duo costs a lot more, and has a ton of antennas, but if you have the budget, and multiple SIM cards, it might be a good investment for you.

Note: for any LTE  product, make sure you get the latest LTE modem to ensure it supports all of the frequencies for your provider(s) and will have longevity. Right now Category 18 is the newest available for the MAX Transit.

The MAX Transit runs off of DC power, has a single WAN port (for an optional WAN device like a MikroTik Groove) and a single LAN port for cabled devices. You can add a switch for more ports (see below). It is very compact and can be mounted in various ways.

Top of my Peplink MAX Transit with the antenna connectors and covered SIM slots

The real star of the Peplink products is the software, which has tons of features and options that add value having it on a boat. Managing internet usage on your boat covers some of these features, including dual SSIDs/networks & bandwidth shaping.

Peplink has a live demo showing most of their features. I would recommend logging in and checking out the Network and AP tabs to see the depth and configurability. You can also see some of the LTE specific features in my post on Grace’s redundant Internet setup which is my previous boat.

Mid-Level – Pepwave MAX BR1 MK2 – $699

The original Pepwave MAX BR1 was one of the most popular LTE routers available, and after a long wait, Pepwave has updated it to the MK2, which is an excellent solution.

It is very similar to the MAX Transit above in almost every way except performance. The MAX Transit has more powerful signal for your on boat WiFi networks, and a faster processor in case you’re doing some of the more advanced features. The MAX Transit also supports CAT 12 LTE networks, while the BR1 MK2 only has a CAT6.

Still, this is an amazing product, and for most people, it will be more than enough in terms of performance. If you have a larger boat, you might want to consider the MAX Transit, but I highly recommend the BR1 MK2.

Note: for any LTE  product, make sure you get the latest LTE modem to ensure it supports all of the frequencies for your provider(s) and will have longevity. Right now Category 6 is the newest available for the MAX Transit.

Netgear Nighthawk M1 – $350

The Netgear Nighthawk M1 is a fantastic all-in-one device. It has a powerful LTE radio, dual band WiFi, ethernet port, and external antenna ports. It’s considered a “hotspot” style device, but it is a very powerful version of those products.

The Nighthawk has a big screen so you can see how many devices are connected, signal strength, and other useful info. It also has a good web-based interface so you can configure things. It’s definitely simpler to use than Peplink products, but that simplicity takes away some features.

Not only is it a great on-board router, but it is battery powered and can be taken ashore when needed. It’s a very versatile option that is more powerful than just using your phone.

Pair it with a Netgear MIMO antenna that can be stuck to a window for better signal, and you have a pretty powerful setup. You can even get adapters to connect to a fully outdoor antenna if you want to.

Note: The Nighthawk is best used with AT&T and T-Mobile. Verizon is not supported.

Home Router –  $268

For those looking for a cheaper solution, a good choice is to pair a consumer grade home router with the Netgear LB1120 LTE modem/router. This allows you to have a familiar and simplified router software and interface for a much cheaper prices.

What you won’t get with this solution is the specific LTE and mobile features built into Peplink products. Some of these will help with managing LTE data usage and others will help the overall experience as I cover in Managing internet usage on your boat. If you have a lot of people uploading photos, or require more control over your LTE bandwidth usage, one of the more expensive solutions above would be better.

You also will have challenges adding another Internet source (commonly referred to as a WAN source) such as a MikroTik Groove. You can still do this somewhat if you chose the alternate dual port Netgear LB2120 which would allow you to connect the Groove upstream of the Negtear LTE router. It would use the Groove if you are connected to WiFi, and fall back to the Negear LTE router when not. However, the control of this is extremely basic, and may not work for all configurations.

TP-Link Archer C2300 router

I would also look for a consumer style router that has a 12V DC power supply. In the example below, I’ve chosen one of the best performing home routers in the TP-Link Archer C2300 which just so happens to use a 12V DC power brick. Most of these products can take a varying DC power input of a volt or two, so you could connect it directly to DC power instead of using an AC outlet + inverter.

One of the pros/cons about this setup is that it is separate components. This is a pro because you can upgrade the individual pieces when new standards come out – say a new LTE frequency with better performance – rather than being stuck with a Pepwave product that you can’t upgrade. The con is that because there are multiple products, they don’t always play well together, and are surely not integrated to manage.  

DIY Heaven – $255

For those who want something inexpensive, and have the technical ability to set up the pieces, the DIY Heaven may be for you. I wrote an extensive article Modular, cheaper boat internet solution via Netgear and MikroTik that covers the details, and has had over 80 comments – there are a lot of configuration options as a result of these devices being DIY.

However, it is a very cost effective solution to having both LTE and WiFi aboard. Here are the list of components:

Keep in mind, this configuration requires moderate to high technical ability – if you don’t understand some basic networking, and working with command lines, please don’t purchase this solution – look at any of the other solutions.

It is a very cost-effective solution with a lot of configuration options. The MikroTik router has one of the most powerful WiFi radios you will find anywhere, and can handle an amazing range of DC power options. It also has a ton of software options, that although daunting to configure, can provide you with a wealth of features few other routers can boast.

Add-Ons

There are a number of add-ons for the systems above that I commonly recommend.

If you are going to be boating in areas where you are away from good quality LTE signal, I highly recommend considering the following two options below:

  • Outdoor LTE antenna
  • Amplifier / booster

If you are going to be near marinas and more populated areas where LTE will be congested, and where WiFi networks are available, I would look at the MikroTik Groove remote WiFi option.

Outdoor LTE Antenna

An outdoor antenna, even without an amplifier, can dramatically improve your LTE signal, depending on the type and size of boat you have. I did a lot of testing in Best LTE antenna and booster for the boat, but in 2019 the best antenna is the Poynting OMNI-400 for around $200. You can read my review at Poynting OMNI LTE Antennas.

Amplifier

For all systems, you have the choice of them being amplified or “boosted” which I highly recommend if you plan on being in hard-to-reach cellular areas. weBoost is the best in the market in terms of performance and power. The weBoost 4G-X has been the leader for years, but the newest version, the weBoost Reach, has proven even more powerful. I can recommend either, although if you are purchasing right now, I would definitely go for the Reach.

Remote WiFi

The only solution right now that I recommend is the MikroTik Groove, mainly because it has the best performance, and is the only solution that can grab remote 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz signals.

If you are going to be at a marina or other location where you can connect to a remote WiFi network and use that as your source of internet, this is the device to have. It saves using up your LTE bandwidth, and can be connected to any of the systems above in varying priorities so you can turn it on/off.

As with any MikroTik product, they are not easy to configure. See MikroTik Groove step-by-step setup guide for more help.

Switch

The Peplink products only have a single LAN ethernet port, which can be a limitation if you want to connect other wired devices. I have been using multiple TrendNET industrial 8 port switches for over a year myself in pretty terrible conditions, and have installed many for customers as well. If you need more ports, this is a great solution as it allows multiple DC power inputs, high speed ports, and a very rugged enclosure.

Installation

Whichever system you choose, make sure you install it correctly. WiFi and LTE are affected by interference, and both use antennas that need to be placed correctly. Failure to get this right will waste all the effort and money you’ve put into the system.

The router component should be placed centrally in your boat, or closer to where people would be consuming WiFi signals. It should be in an area where there isn’t a ton of interference or things like windows or metal to block the WiFi signal.

If you use an amplifier or just an external antenna, make sure you use quality cable between the components, and do not exceed the length provided by the manufacturers. Do not add converters, extenders or the like, as it will in many cases negate any benefit from the antenna/booster. LTE and WiFi antennas do not need to be mounted as high as possible up a sailboat mast, as they are not line of sight sensitive as much as VHF and other systems. Getting your antenna placement correct is key in making sure you get all the benefits of the antenna / booster.

Conclusion

Having reliable Internet on-board nowadays is considered a requirement for many people. Choosing the right system that fits your budget and expertise can be daunting with all of the choices on the market, but using some of the examples above, you should have a good place to start.

If you still have questions, please feel free to contact me – not only do I answer emails all the time about configurations, but I also am available for consultative designs.

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46 thoughts on “Best boat Internet systems”

  1. Great article. I am curious what is available in satellite communications as we are not always within range of an LTE ground station.

    Reply
    • almost nothing if you want to have access youtube online services etc. World is waiting oneweb and starlink which is coming (at least oneweb promised to start commercial work in 2021).

      Reply
  2. Hello Steve
    I have read and re-read your various articles on the PepMax and Wifi-4G bought all through your links…. I have exact configuration you have outlined above Pepwave MAX BR1 MK2
    The question I have is I am installing the antenna’s on a new arch/Davits on my sailboat 41 ft Beneteau. The cables provided for the Wilson Antenna and the MikroTek are about 20 ft. I bought replacement high end cables of 35ft RG58 for the Wilson and a CAT 6 High end for the MIkroTek to go from the arch to the middle of the boat. Should I be concerned about that kind of length (no connections, straight cable on both ends)

    Lastly the MikroTek is mounted higher and the Wilson lower and they are about 1ft apart? Any concern or should I move one on the port side further away, however I have a D400 wind generator there. If I do move one on the other side it would have to be the Wilson as it does not have the special custom mount

    Great articles

    Guy

    Reply
    • Sounds like you have a good setup going! The length of cable for the MikroTik is not an issue at all. CAT6 can be run up to very long distances, of which you’re only likely to find on a mega yacht! For the Wilson antenna, you will likely have a little signal loss, but it won’t be huge. The more important thing would be where you locate the antenna, and making sure not to go by large interference sources with the cable.

      It’s usually OK to have the WiFi antenna near the LTE antenna. Peplink has all four of those close together, as do many all-in-one antennas. There are some overlaps on LTE frequencies with 2.4Ghz WiFi frequencies, but they are so small, and for bands that aren’t that used, you’d never really see any issue.

      Also, keep in mind that most people use WiFi when it is available, and wouldn’t care about LTE at that point, until WiFi goes away, and then LTE comes back on. So in that case, you wouldn’t even notice if there were interference issues.

      It’s always good to separate antennas though, and also to keep them away from other vertical hunks of metal, so I would keep that in mind. What I usually do with my own installs and customer ones when possible is to try to run the cable temporarily outside, zip tie it down, and use the product for a while to ensure the mounting location works. That way you can move it around if you need to. I had one person that did that, and found when they turned their radar on, it completely messed up their WiFi antenna, mainly because of some configuration errors on the radar, but it was a good test!

      Reply
      • Awesome, the Wind Generator is on the other side with its large device so I will keep them both as planned and run the long cables as planned. Thank you so much been enjoying your links and the articles. On the MikroTik I used the following antenna because you can screw it into a plate and replace the standard one from MikroTik… Altelix Dual Band 8dBi Outdoor WiFi Omni Antenna 2.4 GHz & 5 GHz N Female Bulkhead Connector

        Reply
  3. Steve,

    I have read several of your articles with great interest. I am looking at ways to get better cell connections at the channel islands (about 25 miles off the shore of Southern California. I am trying to understand your Pepwave system. With the SIM card install, does this mean you need an additional cell service subscription for the Pepwave and the one for your cell phone?

    Reply
    • hi Alan.
      Actually Pepwave is a big cell phone which allow you to attach external antenna with big gain and allow to use bigger power relatively to generic cell phones. This allow Pepwave to have connection in a place, when your cell phone cannot get signal from coastal tower. Then Pepwave share data from cell coastal tower to your phone\tablet\laptop etc using wifi.
      So to get succes you need to get extra sim card from operator which have towers in your region and put sim into the pepwave. Pepwave will create the bridge between lte cell and wifi. Often it’s unable to get stable connection using only one sim because in different location present towers of different operators. That’s why Pepwave have two (or more) slots for sim cards. So you can put all needed sim cards and then easily manage your connection.

      Reply
  4. Hi Steve,

    Looks like that NETGEAR 4G LTE Modem (LB1120) supports only US LTE bands (2, 4, 5, 12). So how to use it in Caribbean, where all countries supports different LTE bands (3, 13, 17, 20, 30, etc)?

    So for the Caribbean installations may be better use iPhone tethered directly to the router and use multi-SIMM adapters with local SIMM and GigSky or GoogleFI simm?

    Reply
    • Hi Greg,
      Sorry for the delay – I’m migrating my comment system after having a ton of problems with Disqus.

      I would suggest looking at a more commercial offering, as the Netgear is focused on US (probably Canada too) and not the international market. Perhaps a Peplink or other similar solution?

      Reply
  5. Two questions:

    1. Because LTE modems such as Peplink make provision for two antenna inputs, would two exterior Wilson antenna function better than one?

    2. Peplink has a version of the MAX BR1 called the MAX BR1 Pro, which differs from the MAX BR1 Mk2 and the MAX transit in having much more powerful transmit power for on-board WiFi than either of the other two. Would that make a difference, and perhaps eliminate the need for additional access points?

    Reply
    • hi Martin,
      yes, you are right. But you need to understand what is the benefit of second antenna. Modems like Peplink have two connectors one of them work for transmit and receive, but another for receive only. Due to reflection when boat moving in case with one antenna boat receive direct radio wave and reflected wave. Sometimes waves have the same sign and modem have some “magnification” but sometimes waves (direct and reflected) have opposite signs and then modem have lack of signal. that lead to variation of the connection speed, to disconnects etc. With two antennas you can elimitate this receive issues. But keep in mind that second antenna not work for transmit so it will not help if modem do not have enough power to send signal to coastal tower.

      Reply
  6. Hi Steve,

    Looks like that NETGEAR 4G LTE Modem (LB1120) supports only US LTE bands (2, 4, 5, 12). So how to use it in Caribbean, where all countries supports different LTE bands (3, 13, 17, 20, 30, etc)?

    So for the Caribbean installations may be better use iPhone tethered directly to the router and use multi-SIMM adapters with local SIMM and GigSky or GoogleFI simm?

    Reply
  7. Hello Steve
    I have read and re-read your various articles on the PepMax and Wifi-4G bought all through your links…. I have exact configuration you have outlined above Pepwave MAX BR1 MK2
    The question I have is I am installing the antenna’s on a new arch/Davits on my sailboat 41 ft Beneteau. The cables provided for the Wilson Antenna and the MikroTek are about 20 ft. I bought replacement high end cables of 35ft RG58 for the Wilson and a CAT 6 High end for the MIkroTek to go from the arch to the middle of the boat. Should I be concerned about that kind of length (no connections, straight cable on both ends)

    Lastly the MikroTek is mounted higher and the Wilson lower and they are about 1ft apart? Any concern or should I move one on the port side further away, however I have a D400 wind generator there. If I do move one on the other side it would have to be the Wilson as it does not have the special custom mount

    Great articles

    Guy

    Reply
  8. I just got the peplink br1 for my van and it is permanently parked at my work. I get weak to no wifi signal from my work while I am in the parking lot. Two questions: (1) If I strengthen the wifi signal from my work, can I use the peplink to create a local wifi network? (2) Do you think the wifi amplifier may work in this case?

    I would like to set up a security camera to access frequently so I need admin access. Also, I will want to remotely access the system and the wifi has a firewall.

    Should I just get my own sim card and not worry about piggybacking on my work’s wifi signal?

    Reply
    • Hi Scott,

      Which BR1 do you have? The BR1 MK2? If so, that has two WiFi antennas, and you’re likely using one of them to try to connect to your work WiFi. By doing that, you’re losing one of the bands – either 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz. If you are not in a very populated location, that might be ok – using 2.4Ghz from the Peplink to connect to your work WiFi, and 5Ghz inside the van as the local WiFi network.

      Do you know which band you were trying to use to connect to your work WiFi, or were you just using a cell phone or laptop to test?

      If you boost the signal from your work WiFi, the Peplink should be able to connect, but again you may lose one band inside the van as a result.

      The WiFi amplifier (MikroTik Groove) would definitely help, but you’d have to connect it to the WAN port on the BR1 and set it up, etc.

      Depending on how much usage you anticipate, it might be better to just get your own LTE/SIM card. Keep in mind though, those have limits in terms of the amount of data you can send across them per month in most cases. Occasional access to a camera should be ok depending on the type.

      In terms of remote access – it would likely be easier to connect to the device from your work WiFi. LTE connections don’t allow inbound access from the outside world without VPNs and other things. However, you can use Arlo or Blink cameras which don’t require that (I use Arlo on board my boat) and access things fine.

      There’s a lot more details I’d need to know before I could say for sure what would work for you.

      Reply
  9. it’s the mini br1 btw, mk1. just got it on the ebay for $150.

    re the signal for wifi, likely 2.4ghz. we have a lot of older laptops and have never had an issue. i use a vpn to hop on the network from my house.

    Very occasional remote access. 3 night per week maybe a movie or so. 15gb of data with verizon at premium speed, more is slower.

    Do I go with sim/LTE or Mikrotik/work wifi? What else do u meed to know? Thank you so much btw!!!!

    I’m planning on getting an ipad/apple tv for homekit or use arlo with the basestation to access remotely.

    I’m pretty handy with command line computer stuff and can easily learn more network stuff from my colleagues, internet, etc. as needed to configure.

    Reply
    • It might be easier to do this in email, although I’m happy to continue here if you’d prefer.

      The simplest solution is to use an LTE SIM as the MK1 only has a single WiFi radio, which means you’ll need to use that to connect to your work network, and may need to buy a software license to enable the WiFi as WAN feature. However, you will use more LTE bandwidth than you think – 15GB is not that much – you can use that up with a couple of movies.

      The Groove would cost about the same as the WAN feature (if you don’t have it), but that isn’t as integrated, and you have to do some foolery with the health check when setting it up to get it to work. You can find info on that in other articles on my site.

      That way you’d have the local 2.4Ghz WiFi from the Peplink, Groove to connect to your work, and an LTE SIM slot if you ever decide to use that. This would give you a good connection with no monthly limits as well.

      Feel free to contact me at https://seabits.com/contact/ if you want to work through more details.

      Reply
  10. Hi Steve,
    I am setting up my sailboat (46 ft catamaran) for long-term live-aboard. We are in San Diego now but will be in Mexico in a few months and the South Pacific in 2021. Then New Zealand, Australia and Southeast Asia. Maybe Europe later. So I really care about cellular outside the US. I will have IridiumGo to get weather files and email anywhere but its bandwidth is only 2.4 kbps. When I am near land, I want use WiFi when available (rarely) and cellular otherwise.

    Do you recommend that I setup Peplink Max Transit, Mikrotik Groove and a Poynting antenna? I see the weBoost Drive Reach is only licensed in the US, Canada, Mexico and Malaysia, so it won’t work for me.

    Love your articles.
    thanks
    Pat

    Reply
    • Hi Pat,
      Sounds like a wonderful set of places to visit!

      The Peplink MAX Transit + MikroTik Groove + Poynting OMNI-400 would be a great combination. I would look at the Peplink MAX Transit International (Category 6) version or Europe/International (Category 4) version. They are going to have more bands for the various places you’ll be visiting and would likely offer a more reliable solution everywhere. You might also want to get the MikroTik Groove international version (or non-US version) but that may not matter as much, as the US version just locks down the US frequencies more than anything.

      Reply
    • I have not looked at that one, no. Looks pretty good on paper, although CAT4 modems aren’t that great. CAT6 is better. Good that it has both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz local WiFi, and I like OpenWRT a lot, although there is a note about a custom UI? So not sure if it just runs a modified version of OpenWRT or if the UI is required for the WireGuard VPN stuff.

      Weirdly, they have a Quectel modem model EC25-AF that is FirstNet compatible, and has band 71 support, which is the sought after band for the new T-Mobile frequencies. But it’s missing a lot of the other ones.

      Roughly 1/2 the cost of a Peplink but I am going to guess the software for flipping between WAN sources, in particular, is not going to be as polished. However, it could be a good alternative.

      Reply
      • They actually offer a CAT6 module version, with Quectel EP06-E or EP06-A, for $439. https://www.quectel.com/product/EP06.htm

        I haven’t used this specific device before, but I’ve used their Mango mini router before, and can attest that it really is OpenWRT with a UI skin on top. If you’ve ever used OpenWRT before, it feels extremely familiar. I’ve never touched the VPN functionality so can’t speak to it.

        Reply
        • I saw the CAT6 option, but I’m more intrigued by the CAT4 + FirstNet that has B71 which could be a huge benefit in the boating world since T-Mobile will be using that band in more rural areas, and it has the tendency to “travel further”.

          I’m definitely interested in seeing GL iNet’s product – hopefully I can get one in!

          Reply
        • I have one of these on order with both the CAT6 EP06 modem and the more interesting CAT4 EC25-AF modem that supports Band 71, which I am very interested in to test with T-Mobile. It seems like it might take 2-3 weeks for delivery, but the more concerning thing is duties and taxes through customs which looks variable. I’ve had to deal with that many times before, so I hope it is not too much!

          Reply
          • I’m going to try out the EC25-AF version in the CA delta this summer, will share results.

  11. We’re leaving this September for a trip around the world on a 55ft sailboat. I’m looking at various options for good connectivity and at this point I’m leaning towards this setup:

    Wifi: Mikrotek Groove 52 AC + Poynting Omni 296. Placement either top of mast or back at the Davits. UTP cable running through the boat, so length is no issues.

    LTE: Peplink Transit Cat 18 + 2 x Poynting Omni 402 antennas. The omni 400 is not available in Europe, and I don’t want to put up 4 antennas. The Antennas would be placed on the Davits in the back of the sailboat to avoid the long length of going up the mast. As I understood, the antennas should be spaced about 1m from each other, and then crosslink them to further optimise the performance of the 402. What cable length is OK to connect the Antennas to the Peplink?

    Any concerns or improvements?

    Reply
    • Sounds like a good setup. A couple of questions:

      I would look at the OMNI-496 for the MikroTik as well. It’s a marine version of the same antenna essentially. If you just plan on mounting the 296 and hanging the MikroTik off the bottom, that could work too, although you’ll have to weather proof that connector. If you put it all at the top of the mast, it could get quite tall….

      The CAT18 + dual OMNI-402’s is my primary system right now. I have been testing a lot of other things, but that system has been the best, hands down. I also didn’t have space for 4x OMNI-400s, and cross connected the 402’s per Poynting’s wiring guidance and have had excellent results. They do need to be 1m apart, as short cables as possible. I have one at 4.5m and one at 6m length cables as I can’t get them any closer, and they perform very well.

      The only thing I would be worried about is whether the CAT18 covers all the global bands you want. I don’t think there is a better version of the MAX Transit that would be more global, but you might consider looking at the bands on the other versions just to make sure.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the tip on the OMNI 496.

        Here you can see a mount of the Groove to the 296:
        http://www.syseaquest.com/en/verbeteringen/goede-internetverbinding/

        Direct image:
        http://www.syseaquest.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/6F69400C-DBA7-4FBF-89F0-3D12AD0134FB.jpeg

        They use a Sierra MP70 with the Omni-402 halfway the mast. This is something I can’t do as the mast is 25m high. The cable length would be too much I’m afraid. That’s why I’m looking at the back of the boat.

        I thought a CAT18 Routers would cover the most bands (as opposite of the CAT12 / 6)?

        Reply
        • Thanks for that link and those pictures – that is a very nice installation high up on the mast, which will result in very good range for them to pick up WiFi signals.

          You’re right on the CAT18 – I couldn’t remember if one of the “Global” or “Worldwide” models they still had, even at CAT6/12, had more bands. The CAT18 is the best right now for that.

          Reply
          • After reviewing their article a bit more, and seeing the placement of their OMNI-402, I would be worried mainly because of the enormous aluminum mast next to the antenna they mounted on the spreader. I’ve seen this done before, and it does cause a huge hole in the antenna coverage because of the metal that is in the way.

            LTE antennas don’t gain that much benefit by being really high up, and in fact, the cable loss from the length required usually is worse than just mounting it lower, as you’re going to do.

            I still really like their MikroTik setup though!

  12. Hi Steve, having carefully read your articles about this topic, would you recommend the following setup?
    Peplink Max BR1 Slim, with a an OMNI-291 connected to the main LTE antenna port, and an OMNI-496 connected to the wifi antenna port. And use the Wifi-WAN abilities of the Max BR1 when I want to connect using the marina wifi (rather than using a Mikrotik). Please note I’m choosing OMNI-291 because I’m in Europe.
    It looks like a simpler system to me, and a bit cheaper too. Optionally, I could use the BR1 MK2, which would give me LTE cat 6 speeds.
    Anything wrong with this? Is the Mikrotik setup significantly better than using the Wifi WAN capability of the MAX BR1?

    Reply
    • Hi Massimo,
      A few things to consider:
      The MAX BR1 Slim only has 2.4Ghz WiFi. If you intend on using this to create a local WiFi network, I would consider one of the other models since 5Ghz is far more important to have nowadays than 2.4Ghz due to interference, especially if you are in a marina or other area where there are lots of other boats.

      Also related to above – if you use the WiFi radio to grab a remote signal, it either won’t broadcast a local WiFi network on your boat, or will be severely impacted performance-wise. I have not tested the Slim to know which one happens, but you might be able to find out more info on the Peplink Forums. I am going to guess it will do both, but be very poor performance since it has to do both simultaneously. You’ll also have your primary WiFi antenna outside, so if your boat is large or has lots of stuff causing interference between the outdoor antenna and where you are inside, you may have issues.

      One way around this would be to add an AP One Rugged access point inside that could do both 2.4 and 5Ghz for your local WiFi, and then you could use the Slim for everything outside which is a good solution.

      In my testing, the OMNI-496 antennas have been just as good as the MikroTik without all of the crazy software requirements of that device.

      Reply
      • Many thanks for your feedback Steve!

        1) If it was the BR1 MK2 (rather than the Slim), would you still have the same reservations?

        2) When you say that the MikroTik performs like an OMNI-496, are you referring to the Groove with its own factory-supplied antenna? If so, is the Mikrotik with its own antenna rugged enough to be outside on a boat?

        3) One more question about power. Whilst I can power the BR1 with DC from the boat, the Mikrotik requires POE, and POE injectors that use 12V are not easy to find. What do you recommend?

        Many thanks again for your amazing support!

        Reply
        • 1) Yes, the BR1 MK2 is better than the Slim in that it has 5Ghz WiFi. The only challenge you’ll have is that you will need two OMNI-496s if you want to use both outdoors.

          2) The MikroTik doesn’t seem to perform that much better with a factory or add-on antenna. I have used many, many of them with the factory antenna, and some 3rd party inexpensive ones, and they seem to do just about the same. I have installed many MikroTik on my own boats and other folks and they do fine if you take precautions.

          3) There are a number of solutions to PoE which I think I covered on this page, in the comments, or on the comments on some of the other pages, but it is hard to search for them sometimes. You can use the included PoE injector and lop off the end, connect it to DC power with a fuse, and the MikroTik will work fine. If you want something fancier, look at Tycon PoE power supplies which come in all sorts of voltages and flavors.

          Reply
          • Ok many thanks, sounds like the Mikrotik is the way to go then.
            Have you been happy with the ruggedness of the Mikrotik with its own supplied antenna, or do you cover it to protect it from sea elements?
            Cheers 🙂

          • You can put some sort of tape over the joint between the antenna and the MikroTik, or some other type of sealant, which is highly recommended. The cable entry point in the bottom is relatively waterproof, but you could also add something if you want. I have used both the plastic and the metal versions, and find the plastic one is fine, but does wear out faster in the sun.

  13. Steve, sorry one more question 🙂
    Is it worth spending the money for two OMNI-291 connected to the BR1 MK2 (main plus diversity), or is just one connected to main enough?
    Would I get much better range with two antennas?

    Reply
    • If you have the space and budget, it is always better to have more outdoor antennas. I mention in several of my reviews and posts that a single Poynting OMNI-401 is excellent, and the benefits from having a second for diversity is moderate, but if you want the best solution for the furthest away signal, as well as higher upload/download rates, having multiple antennas outside is always going to be better.

      The challenge on boats is usually real-estate and cable runs.

      You might also want to consider the OMNI-402 which is a dual element single antenna – not as good as having two separate antennas, but it is the next best thing. You can connect both primary/main and aux/diversity to it and have a single mount outside.

      Reply
  14. Hi Steve,
    For the budget option, I’m trying to figure out why you recommend a router + LTE modem (ex, Netgear modem + Microtik router) rather than an integrated LTE router.
    It looks to me like the Peplink MAX BR1 mini LTE router is $244 (on Amazon) which is about the same as the ~$230 for a router + Netgear modem. One device seems simpler (on a boat), and possibly lower power usage.

    Reply
    • Hi Patrick,
      The MAX BR1 mini is definitely enticing, but it lacks a 5Ghz local WiFi radio, which is a big negative in my book. Even at anchor, there are so many other 2.4Ghz WiFi signals that having that alone as your local frequency ends up causing problems. In a marina, it’s almost unusable. The MAX BR1 MK2 has both WiFi radios, but is quite a bit more than the BR1 Mini.

      A potential hybrid would be to get a BR1 and then a super cheap home router that has dual band WiFi, and not use the WiFi radio in the BR1. Or you could stick an outdoor antenna on the BR1 WiFi port, and use it to capture a remote WiFi signal which makes it even more versatile. That way you could get 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz WiFi on board, have a nice LTE router with external WiFi capabilities, and have the Peplink software to boot. It’s not likely you’d need to change your local WiFi settings that much, and you could still do traffic QoS and other things on the BR1.

      In terms of power usage, they’d probably be pretty close, although you could be right – the BR1 might have slightly less than the other two combined. You also have the fact that some cheap home routers, while they say they run off of 12v, are doing some conversion that is less efficient than a dedicated device like the Peplink.

      Reply
      • I’m not sure I need 5ghz wifi. We’re rarely in marinas, and to-date I’ve been using a 2.4ghz hotspot generated by my Android phone (Pixel 3a). It supports 5ghz but I had it on 2.4 because some old devices like my Kindle only support 2.4. I haven’t noticed any issues with that afaik. 

        We’re an electronics light boat, and space is always limited so that’s why one device instead of 2 appeals to me. Basically I was wondering if your recs here came from your interests as an advanced power user or more because integrated LTE routers weren’t available as much in 2019. Now it seems like there are multiple options. 

        I see also the Netgear Nighthawk M1 for $320 supports dual-band Wifi, has internal 4×4 MIMO, and 2 TS-9 connectors for an external antenna. It’s a bit more expensive, and powered by USB instead of hardwired to boat power, but that could be seen as an advantage – plug-and-play (super easy install) and it could be brought to shore if we want to work from the beach or something (or traveling). 

        Thanks for all the work you’ve done on this!

        Reply
        • Ah if you don’t need 5Ghz, then the BR1 Slim could be a good option for sure. It’s rare that folks don’t have some sort of issue with 2.4ghz, but if you can get away with it, that is a good solution.

          I have the Netgear Nighthawk M1 and has been my favorite hotspot for a while. Not only does it have 4×4 MIMO, but it has an ethernet port on it, which is super useful for things that don’t have WiFi or if you just want a really good quality connection from a laptop or other device. The hotspot itself performs better than most others both in terms of signal strength and general UI/software performance, and has a lot of nice little features.

          I use mine when I am ashore all the time when I need reliable internet. There are versions of it that are blocked on one particular network – I’m completely forgetting which one it is but I think you can do a Google search and find it.

          I haven’t updated this article in a bit and probably should, or just do a new version…. So many new things to try to keep up with!

          Reply

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