Modular, cheaper boat internet solution via Netgear and MikroTik

I’ve written a lot about my boat network, and in particular, Peplink products that offer a ton of functionality and features. However, those come at a cost – the top of the line compact unit from Peplink can run almost $1000. For the last 6 months, I have been playing with configurations and hardware that cost less, but still provide flexibility and features that more expensive solutions offer.

The Search

I started by thinking about the criteria for on-boat networking and came up with some basic, high level requirements.

Local WiFi – must be able to create a local WiFi network running both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands. Both are required because many locations have too much interference for 2.4Ghz to work properly.

Local Ethernet ports – there should be a few Ethernet ports on the device to allow for connection to items on your boat that cannot use WiFi.

Remote WiFi – must be able to grab remote WiFi signals and use them as a source for the Internet connection. Ideally this should be done via an externally mounted antenna/system.

LTE Internet – must be able to use a standard LTE connection to provide Internet access.

DC power – should run off of DC power, preferably 12v.

Relatively inexpensive – commercial vendor solutions start at $600 and don’t meet all of these requirements. Most are $800-1200 for all requirements, so this solution should be cheaper.

Modular – if possible, it should be modular so various components can be swapped out for lower/higher performance, and when protocols/standards change/improve.

Note that I did not include plug-and-play or dead-simple configuration. I am willing to spend a bit more time setting something up, and have a deep computing and systems background, but I tried to make this solution for someone who has a moderate computing background, or is at least willing to do some work to save some money. If you expect a simple wizard or one screen configuration, this is not the product/solution for you – you are better buying one of the more commercial solutions.

Commercial Solutions

There are a ton of options out there for Internet access both at home and while mobile. I’ve mentioned a few before, including Peplink and Cradlepoint. These are fully commercial solutions that cost quite a bit of money, have tons of features, and are really good for networking nerds like myself, or folks who need abundance of features or functionality. They are generally produced for mobile applications, but lately many manufacturers are targeting the marine industry. The problem with many of these solutions is the cost, both initial and support for ongoing years, and the proprietary hardware they lock you into. I personally use the Peplink Max Transit on Grace and recently upgraded to the newer LTE radio version which was almost $900. I have dual LTE SIMs that can I choose from, 2.4 and 5Ghz WiFi, a LAN port that I uplink to a switch, and a WAN port that goes to my WiFi booster. You can see more details in Grace’s Redundant Internet Setup.

I use fancy rate shaping features, monitor things from cloud services, and do all sorts of other wonderful things that I find interesting, but that I have heard from many boaters, are not interesting to them. It is a great piece of hardware and software, but it comes at a price, and locks you in to their ecosystem.

In addition to those vendors, there are marine specific solutions like the Wirie, Rogue Networks, and many others. Many use the same hardware as you will see below adding a simplified UI to the product, and providing remote support. The cost for this is usually 2-4x times the list price of the hardware, and can drive their solutions up to a similar price point as larger commercial vendors. At the time of this article, the Wirie Pro with LTE added on is $800, and has less than half the features of the Peplink. They are often hard to get (out of stock a lot!) and don’t necessarily have the support department behind them that the larger vendors do.

The biggest reason to choose any of these vendors is the all-in-one solution and support. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty configuring a MikroTik, then look no further, these are for you.

Many people also grouse and complain about how much these solutions cost compared to their “home WiFi router” – take a minute and remember two things. First, if you have been in boating long enough, you know anything with the word “marine” before it makes things far more expensive! Second, does your home router have an LTE connection along with a long range antenna boosting a remote WiFi signal? I thought so. You only have one piece of the three part puzzle that you need on the boat.

Testing

I tried a number of different vendors software and hardware, and reviewed even more online. The first set of tests involved looking for a solution where all or most of the functionality was in one single system. This proved to be very difficult, and pushed the cost up very quickly. In many cases, the only solutions were integrated from several other pieces of hardware, and sold by a company as a service, with large price tags as a result.

Even cutting down some of the criteria didn’t fix the biggest problem of all – LTE internet access. While getting a product that has an LTE radio in it isn’t that hard, having good software around it is surprisingly difficult to find without caveats or features you don’t need. Many companies, including Peplink, Cradlepoint, Mushroom Networks, and many more, provide an entire set of products around managing internet connections via LTE. The features alone around failing over between LTE links, VPN sharing, signal strength monitoring, etc. are very complex, and warrant the $800-1000 price tags for some of that equipment.

After discarding all of the expensive vendors, that left a lot of smaller companies and platforms. Having used many of them at work and in past projects, after reviewing even more of the smaller companies, I finally settled on two front runners – MikroTik and pfSense.

I considered several other commercial and open source projects but was never happy with the feature set or hardware that they produced. In many cases, they did not produce hardware at all, and required that you buy off the shelf stuff, which is fine, but once you throw in DC power, switch ports, and WiFi radios, it gets expensive, or requires integration.

pfSense has been around a very long time, and are primarily known as a firewall product. In recent years they were purchased by Netgate, and have been producing their own hardware. However, you can install pfSense on hardware of your own if you so choose. It is an amazingly full-featured firewall with tons of options and features, and plugins to add even more functionality. However, their WiFi support is complex, has limited hardware choices for a DC 12v install, and very poor LTE radio support.

MikroTik has been around a long while as well, and combined with their RouterBoard hardware, offers a crazy amount of differing hardware platforms all with the same OS. I’ve written about MikroTik before, and use a Groove AC as my main remote WiFi unit on Grace. MikroTik offered far more hardware choices that looked good, have an OS that is similar in features to pfSense, although sometimes difficult to interact with, but also had bad LTE support.

At the end of all this testing, I never found a single solution that could provide the core items you would find in a Peplink router – LTE, WiFi and some ethernet ports, all running at 12v DC. Time to break things up into parts!

LTE Solution

After a lot of attempts at trying USB dongles, LTE WiFi access points (commonly called Jetpacks or MiFi), I stumbled across a set of products from Netgear that looked perfect – the LB1120 is the model I chose. This is an LTE modem with varying configurations of Ethernet ports, and nothing else. Not a USB dongle, WiFi access point that has crappy features, or anything else – just raw LTE radio and Ethernet port, which was perfect for my configuration. It is also quite powerful radio/signal wise.

Netgear LB1120 LTE modem

There are three models to choose from, the LB1120, LB1121, and LB2120. The LB1120 has a single Ethernet port, the 1121 a single Ethernet port that can accept PoE, and the LB2120 with two Ethernet ports – WAN and LAN.

I chose the LB1120 so that I could have a simplified configuration – one LAN port that connects to my on board router and provides a high quality LTE signal.

The LB2120 could work depending on your setup, and I actually tested that unit and had high hopes for it. It has a LAN port and a WAN port with failover functionality built in. I had tried to use the WAN port to connect the remote WiFi grabbing device, but found that when the WAN port failed a health check, it took the port down, which meant that I could not configure the device upstream of it to fix the problem. Sort of a catch 22 situation that would require disconnecting that upstream device in order to add a new WiFi network that I was trying to amplify, so I wouldn’t recommend it for that particular configuration.

The LB1121, which can be powered by PoE, is not likely worth the cost, as it would have to have another device capable of producing PoE. If you continue down and choose not to use a remote WiFi grabbing device from the router, then you could feasibly use it to power the Netgear but I didn’t test that.

Note that I tested the Netgear LB1120 on AT&T and T-Mobile in the US. Your mileage may vary with other providers. It does appear that this device does not have world-band coverage, at least in the US, so please review the models and band coverage carefully if you need international coverage.

A must have accessory for any of the three models is the Netgear MIMO antenna, which plugs into the two ports on the back of the modem and helps ensure you have a quality signal.

The performance of this Netgear setup really impressed me in all conditions. The power of the radios and additional gain from the antenna made for one of the highest performing LTE solutions I’ve ever used. The diversity radios made a huge impact on throughput, and not having other random features made for a really simplified configuration. Having software that will use the WiFi device upstream if available, and fall back to LTE when unavailable is similar to high end features on commercial solutions.

This would be a fantastic addition to a boat network with an existing router, but without any LTE.

Router Solution

After testing a bunch of different hardware and reviewing many others online, I found the best router to be the MikroTik hAP AC. The hardware is simply superior to anything else I could find for the price. It includes a 2.4Ghz/5Ghz WiFi AP, 5 ethernet ports, including one PoE, and operates off of DC power over a wide range. The operating system has a lot of flexibility, and while relatively esoteric and sometimes hard to use, provided most of the features (if not all) of the more expensive commercial choices.

I don’t understand how MikroTik can make such a powerful box for so cheap – the feature set and hardware rival solutions router makers for your home or office.

MikroTik hAP AC lights showing WiFi active and Ethernet port 1 connected

The hAP has 5 ethernet ports, one of which can generate Power over Ethernet (PoE) power outbound to run another device, and one which can accept PoE power in to run the entire router. I chose to use DC power from the boat, and keep things simple. It also has a USB port if you want to try to use their LTE support (don’t), lights for each port and the WiFi radios, a reset button, and that’s about it.

The biggest challenge to any MikroTik device is configuration. Using MikroTik’s winbox configuration tool can help with this, but ultimately you will have to do some research depending on your exact configuration.

I have included a basic configuration example from my testing which setup the hAP in the following:

  • Ethernet port 1 as the WAN connection – this is what should be plugged into the Netgear and is “outside” the firewall
  • Ethernet ports 2-5 as your LAN connections, protected by the basic MikroTik firewall and able to be used for cabled devices
  • WiFi radios for both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz turned on with network name “your-ssid” and password “your-password” – please change these!
  • Basic firewall setup denying all traffic from the WAN port but responding to ping and allowing existing sessions. Your mileage may vary, and I highly recommend reading more on MikroTik’s site and forums about improving security and your firewall.

The configuration file is available here: sailbits-mikrotik-hap-ac

Please note that this configuration file has been known to cause syntax errors with newer versions of software. I recommend you read my other article MikroTik Groove step-by-step setup guide for an easier way to set things up in your MikroTik.

Remote WiFi Solution

Having done extensive testing in this area a bit over a year and a half ago, I revisited the various vendors that were part of my tests then, and looked for new ones. Even with that update, I still stand by my current solution for this – the MikroTik Groove AC.

The Groove is a two piece WiFi unit that runs off of Power over Ethernet. It is meant to be mounted outside so that it has a better chance to pick up remote WiFi networks, and comes with clamps and points to make that easy. There’s also an adapter to provide PoE power from a wall wart – I modified mine and connected it to my 12v DC system on the boat.

There’s one Ethernet port on the bottom with a water proof cover. You can run an outdoor quality Ethernet cable from the unit inside to where the router is.

International users please note: the link below is for a US only “locked” version. If you are using this internationally, you should look for the “unlocked” international version.

Configuration Choices

I decided to show a couple different configurations possible with this set of equipment based on needs.

LTE & Remote WiFi

This is the full featured solution with both LTE and WiFi internet sources available. Port 1 on the MikroTik hAP router connects to the Netgear for LTE internet access, and port 5 connects and powers the MikroTik Groove via power over ethernet (PoE) to capture remote WiFi signals.

To configure failover between LTE and WiFi, I recommend reading Two gateways failover and Advanced Routing Failover on MikroTik’s site. Please note the example configuration file provided above does not include the failover configuration.

Based on how you configure failover, you could have WiFi as primary when a network is connected, and only use LTE when absolutely needed. I personally use LTE all the time, and only turn remote WiFi on when I know there is a network nearby that is high quality, and that I can get on reliably. I have found most marina networks to be slower than LTE or have issues with quality signal (see Marina WiFi is Hard). As a result, I have mine configured with the MikroTik Groove disabled most of the time unless I absolutely need it, and rely on LTE.

Whichever way you configure it, this setup gives you the best of both worlds with plenty of flexibility.

LTE Only

This is the cheapest and simplest configuration, but also one that many folks choose if you don’t care about grabbing remote WiFi signals. Pretty simple and straightforwards – ethernet from router to Netgear. The example configuration provided in sailbits-mikrotik-hap-ac will work for this setup.

Given that less and less marinas seem to be providing WiFi (at least around here), this seems like a more likely way for folks to get Internet on the boat via LTE.

Power

All of these devices accept 12v DC. The MikroTik can accept from 10-57V, the Netgear accepts 12V, and the MikroTik Groove accepts PoE from 10-30V.

I’ve run the Netgear on the boat for 4+ months at widely varying voltages from 11-14+ without any issues, but your mileage may vary. I doubt it is designed as well as the MikroTik – if you’re worried, either run it off of AC/inverter power, or use a buck converter to take whatever voltage you are producing on the boat, and make sure it’s always 12v.

For the MikroTik router and the Netgear, I simply wired their barrel connectors into a DC fuse block each with their own fuse matching the manufacturers specs. For the MikroTik Groove, I prefer using the MikroTik hAP router’s PoE port, but I have also used the provided PoE adapter, lopped the barrel connector off, and run it off of the varying 11-14+ volt boat power system by connecting it to the same DC fuse block with its own fuse.

Modularity

Not only is this setup modular to the point that you could swap things in and out, but you don’t have to use all of the pieces to begin with.

If you already have an onboard router, but don’t have LTE, grabbing the Netgear is an easy way to add it with minimal cost, but providing a high performance connection.

Same with the on-board router – if you don’t have one now, and are a DIY’er, the MikroTik has a fantastic set of WiFi radios for both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz, runs off of boat power, has a ton of ports, and can be expanded on later.

You can even combine a booster with this configuration and supercharge it, although it will add almost double the cost. You can read more about how to do this in Best LTE antenna and booster for the boat.

Pricing

Here are the general costs at time of writing.

LTE & Remote WiFi:

lte-and-remote-wifi

LTE Only:

lte-only

Comparison

While saving this much money is nice, it is important to review the benefits in choosing something like this over a more expensive commercial solution.

Pros

  • Less expensive than a single commercial solution
  • Modular – when LTE category X comes out, you don’t have to replace the entire unit to get the faster access (which is the case with Peplink/Cradlepoint).
  • Simpler components – if you need to replace/upgrade/change one part, its easy to do.

Cons

  • 3 devices instead of one – adds more cabling, power, etc.
  • Complex configuration – this is not something to overlook. The MikroTik OS in particular is complex and very modular, but also very frustrating to many people. It is best if you have some sort of computing background – this solution is not for those who want plug and play or simple wizards to set things up. If that is what you need, you are stuck paying for a more expensive solution.
  • Integrated features missing – the commercial solutions have features that take advantage of the fact that they are controlling all aspects of your Internet connection – WiFi, LTE, LAN, etc. – and can leverage that for some really nice features. Some of these can be achieved with the above, but they are not as robust.

Conclusion

For roughly half the price of a single-vendor solution, you can build an Internet setup on your boat that allows for a local 2.4Ghz & 5Ghz WiFi networks, four Ethernet ports, LTE internet access, and remote WiFi internet access. It does require a bit more configuration, but you will have a quality solution that can be updated, upgraded, and expanded on without much effort.

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93 thoughts on “Modular, cheaper boat internet solution via Netgear and MikroTik”

  1. Great article. Super useful.

    Would you be interested in collaborating on an easier-to-configure interface for the Mikrotik Groove? There’s a node.js module for controlling it. You seem adept at many Mikrotik things and I can easily build the progressive web app part. I suspect most people want to be able to simply pick an AP from a list and just start using it.

    Also – I built a combined AP + Groove unit that can run off 12v. Could I bring one over for you to try out? It was designed to be portable and easily stowed during cruising without the need for any external antenna mounting.

    Reply
    • Aquabelle: thanks for catching that! I had originally given my configurations funny names, and had three configurations instead of two. I also was using the Netgear LB2120 instead of the LB1120, but after testing found that the LB2120 was not suited for the configuration, and given that it cost more, I removed it from my recommendations.

      The other configuration missing was the MikroTik hAP AC router connected to the Netgear LB2120, and the Netgear using its WAN port to connect to the MikroTik Groove. That was much simpler in terms of the MikroTik hAP AC configuration, letting the Netgear choose to use the WiFi MikroTik Groove or LTE, but it didn’t work reliably. In particular, the Netgear would shut off the WAN port if connectivity wasn’t available via the Groove, which meant you couldn’t get to the Groove to configure it to use a different WiFi network. Sort of a catch 22.

      I’ve updated the post to remove that name and make sure things are all consistent!

      Reply
  2. Steve: given how many of your growing band of followers are outside the US, it is worth noting that the MikroTik Groove AC is available in two models. The ‘locked’ version is intended for use within the US only. For all other countries, the ‘unlocked’ version should be ordered.

    Reply
  3. Steve,
    Thanks for the great article! This realistic approach is within my grasp, both financially and insofar as the skills needed to get it up and running.

    I’m interested in optimizing LTE reception as we want to spend a lot of time exploring the BC coast, anticipating areas of weaker signal. Last month you wrote a great review of LTE antennas. While the WirEng was the top choice, the Wilson was your number two pick and costs about a third of the WirEng. What do you think about the cost-benefit return of spending the additional money above the Netgear MIMO antenna and adding the Wilson? I know it wouldn’t give the benefit of a diversity antenna, but perhaps a second inexpensive antenna could be sourced to address this.

    Those boosters you reviewed are obviously desirable in areas with weak signal, but they’re priced beyond the scope of this project.

    Thanks again for sharing your expertise with us!

    Reply
    • Anson,
      Thanks for the comment! Glad to hear that this could help you with a project.

      Having two antennas (diversity) is more beneficial for throughput and performance, not necessarily signal strength. Of course, having the Netgear add-on antenna would be better for signal strength than just the built in antenna for the Netgear router, but not anywhere near as much as an outside-mounted antenna.

      Some folks have found that the WirEng BoatAnt antenna is hard to find, and that they’ve even been pointed to a newer version that costs $500! The Wilson is still a fantastic antenna, and both because the BoatAnt is hard to get, and for cost reasons, I would definitely recommend it.

      If you decided to use the Wilson, and end up also using the Netgear LB1120, you’ll need a converter from whatever cable you end up using (I believe the Wilson comes with some) to the connectors on the back of the Netgear. I don’t have those specs right in front of me now, but I’m sure it’s pretty easy to validate.

      Having the Wilson outdoors and connected to the Netgear will definitely help with hard to find signals, as long as you mount it up away from other interference and use a short amount of high quality cable.

      Reply
  4. Steve: is there a strong case for the gigabit ethernet ports in our typical on-board applications? The MikroTik hAP Lite is available with ac wireless and almost the same spec, but has standard 10/100 ports…and is about 40% of the cost. I am thinking of CE/MaxSea and networked radar and sounders….

    Reply
  5. Steve: is there a strong case for the gigabit ethernet ports in our typical on-board applications? The MikroTik hAP Lite is available with ac wireless and almost the same spec, but has standard 10/100 ports…and is about 40% of the cost. I am thinking of CE/MaxSea and networked radar and sounders….

    Reply
    • Aquabelle: the hAP Lite has one other missing piece – 5Ghz wireless. If you frequent decent sized marinas, I highly recommend you don’t skip that feature. I can think of 3 marinas near me where 2.4Ghz wifi is so saturated that even on my own boat down belowdecks, it is unusable.

      However, back to your original question – most marine equipment that I have come across, even ethernet connected high fidelity sounders/radars, would operate fine at 100 megabits. I’m sure over time some of the newer stuff will use more bandwidth, and I would steer away from anything that is not a full switch. Hubs and some of the MikroTik stuff can have impacts if they are a simple bridge and not fully switching.

      Reply
      • Steve: hAP Lite DOES have 5Ghz (I wouldn’t consider it otherwise) but is has just one chain vs 3 chains for 2.4Ghz. Interpreting the significance of ‘chains’ in wireless topographies is way, way above my paygrade though!! But I’m guessing squarely in yours….!?

        Reply
        • Hmmm we must be looking at different model numbers then. I see the hAP Lite which only has 2.4Ghz, the hAP Lite TC which also only has 2.4Ghz.

          Ah found it, we’re talking about the hAP **AC** Lite which does have 5Ghz. Compared to the one I used above, it has a slower CPU, half the RAM, same license levels (important for features), slightly smaller footprint, and much less power usage (8W vs 17W!).

          It does have less performant antennas as well as less chains and overall WiFi performance, but if you don’t have that big of a boat, you should be OK. The normal hAP AC will definitely outperform this one in both speed and in coverage given its higher gain antennas and more chains.

          A good alternative! There are so many choices to choose from with MikroTik – any of them with a license level of 4 and a few ports would work as well.

          Reply
  6. Steve, great article, and very timely. I REALLY need to get an LTE solution instead of the useless Wi-Fi I have now….I’m curious about the recommended antenna for the LB1120 – it’s apparently quite small (4×6″ or so), and comes with a 1M cable. So – if you locate the LB1120 below decks, is this really going to help you much? I was envisioning something you could mount on the arch, or at least externally somewhere… Do you have any installed photos of the gear you described in the article? (and do you do any one-on-one marine consulting in the Seattle area?…jk…sort of)

    Reply
    • Hi Grant,
      Thanks for the comments! Yes, the Netgear antenna is meant for window mounting nearby the router itself, not necessarily to be run outside somewhere. I don’t think it is weather proof in any way. Even if you have the router belowdecks, you could get the antenna up away from other interference and have it on the fiberglass hull or in a porthole, which would make a big difference.

      I searched for a photo of that particular part of the install and I don’t have one handy. I had the router in my Internet Alcove, which is a cabinet belowdecks, and ran the antenna cabling up through a gap to a porthole, and used the suction cups it came with to attach it to the porthole. Of course that might not be terribly usable if someone wanted to open the porthole, but it was the best way to get signal without a booster, and without just using the standard antennas.

      One way to test if you are already planning on the Netgear router is to order it without the antenna and see if you have decent signal wherever you mount it. You could also look at adding a booster, external and internal antennas if you really wanted it to perform at top notch, but that of course costs more $ and power https://seabits.com/best-lte-antenna-booster-boat/

      Even the smaller Netgear antenna, mounted near the Netgear router would still be better antennas than the ones internally, but it might not be a huge improvement, just enough to allow diversity to work better, or something similar like that. Testing would be required wherever you’re going to install it.

      Surprisingly, I do actually do a lot of one-on-one consulting in the local area 🙂 People run into me while I’m on the dock or visiting another marina, or reach out and ask if I would look at XYZ networking thing, or something along those lines. Always happy to see other folks boats, make suggestions and share my knowledge, because inevitably I learn something new every time I am involved with someone else. That’s one of the main reasons I do this stuff!

      Reply
      • Steve, thanks much for the quick and detailed response. Please let me know the best way to reach you regards getting together on my boat – I would really appreciate a couple of pointers on this setup – many thanks,

        Reply
  7. Steve, thanks much for the quick and detailed response. Please let me know the best way to reach you regards getting together on my boat – I would really appreciate a couple of pointers on this setup – many thanks,

    Reply
  8. Steve, I’ve gone ahead and ordered all the gear you recommended (though I did end up ordering the hAP Lite AC version of the router). While I’m waiting for all to arrive, I have been going over the configuration steps necessary. I think I get what’s needed. But one thing is bothering me: the spare ports on the router I’ll use for my Furuno NN3D MFD and DRS radar. But the MFD insists on being the DHCP device (the ‘master’ in Furuno-speak). I don’t think I can have both the Groove set up as DHCP and the MFD trying to play this role too, can I? If necessary, I could disconnect the Groove when navigating using the MFD…but given my very limited networking skills, thought I’d throw this to you.

    Reply
  9. Steve, I’ve gone ahead and ordered all the gear you recommended (though I did end up ordering the hAP Lite AC version of the router). While I’m waiting for all to arrive, I have been going over the configuration steps necessary. I think I get what’s needed. But one thing is bothering me: the spare ports on the router I’ll use for my Furuno NN3D MFD and DRS radar. But the MFD insists on being the DHCP device (the ‘master’ in Furuno-speak). I don’t think I can have both the Groove set up as DHCP and the MFD trying to play this role too, can I? If necessary, I could disconnect the Groove when navigating using the MFD…but given my very limited networking skills, thought I’d throw this to you.

    Reply
  10. Nice article.

    I have a USB3 powered hub with 3x 4T WD Passport disks attached (for media and backups.) Could I attach this to the USB port of the MikroTik hAP AC router and be able to access the drives over the Wifi ??

    Reply
  11. Great writeup.

    FYI – the WiFiRanger GoAC is built on top of the same powerful MikroTik hAP hardware, but with completely custom software that addresses several of the issues you raised. In particular, the WiFiRanger excels at tethering to hotspots over USB, and it provides a very simple UI.

    For anyone interested in a simpler overall setup, it is definitely worth a closer look. It costs more – but the software and support is worth it to many.

    Our review of it:
    http://www.mobileinternetinfo.com/review-center/wifiranger-goac/

    Cheers,
    – Chris

    Reply
  12. Great article Steve. I pulled the pin and bought all this gear: skipping the max transit for now. would love to see your config with both wifi and LTE setup. (if you have this setup). My current question is whether I should set both the groove and the HAP AC router to both be Routers with NAT in place, or whether I should configure the Groove as a bridge. If I wasnt going to setup LTE it would be super simple to have the groove be the router and just have the HAP AC be a wireless access point. Can you see any issues with having both the Groove and the HAP both be configured as Routers? ( I was going to create separate network address ranges so routing doesnt get weird between the LAN-HAP network and the Hap-Groove network)

    Reply
    • Sounds like lots of new fun toys!

      I prefer to set them routed for a couple of reasons. First, routed mode means you can have separate networks, firewalls on each of the devices, and know exactly what you are connecting to at any time. Having a firewall on the Groove is nice because whatever WiFi AP you’re connected to could be compromised or have other traffic going on that you don’t want to repeat down to the hAP AC. It is also clear if you give out organized network addresses what is coming from where when you are debugging things. 192.168.10.0/24 is the hAP AC DHCP scope and WiFi/LAN network addresses, 192.168.20.0/24 is the Groove, etc. etc.

      I’ve also seen bridge mode on MikroTik devices completely hose networks, mainly because, well, they’re bridging. Bridges are powerful in that they usually forward everything from one side to the other. So if you had crappy traffic coming out of your hAP AC, and the Groove was in bridge mode, the Groove will happily forward it out onto whatever WiFi network you’re connected to. If someone noticed, they could ban you, or in many cases, if you are spewing too many packets, advanced WiFi network systems will slow you down or cut you off. Having a NAT means things that are forwarded by a bridge wouldn’t necessarily be forwarded by a NAT/routed configuration.

      Bridges in general to me are just harder to deal with when there is a problem.

      Many people worry about double NAT’ing or the number of NATs, and that just isn’t something to worry about anymore. On a mobile device, you’re being NAT’ed many, many times – even on a home network connection, or a marina WiFi connection, you are undoubtedly not directly on the Internet, and are being NAT’ed at least once. Another time doesn’t hurt, and it doesn’t add any significant latency or processing power for these situations.

      But if you didn’t want separate networks, etc. you could configure the Groove as a bridge, and the hAP AC as the router. I don’t remember exactly how you’d be able to get into the Groove if it was in routed mode, it might get funky if it is not connected to something…

      The best way, if you want a bridged config, would be as you mentioned – the Groove as the primary router, and the hAP AC bridged. I’d take a look at the CPU specs though, as I think the hAP AC has a much better CPU and more ram than the Groove, and would likely be a better candidate as a router.

      Reply
  13. Another great article. I wonder about the metal version of Groove AC – is this a better version for external mounting at the masthead??

    Reply
    • Hi Andy,
      Thanks for the kind words!
      I have the metal version, and have been testing it for the last 6 months or so. I have worked on 6 of the metal ones, and over 20 of the standard plastic ones, and had more out of box failures of the metal ones that I can remember of any other product. Of the 6 I actually worked on and/or installed, 4 were out of box failures that required sending them back.

      They were pretty new when I first started working on them, and if you order from Amazon, its super easy to return of course. I started using them as I expected they would be better in the elements, and I still think they could be.

      Reply
  14. So glad I found this site! Great information; well written and informative. Based on this article, I started to look at the external antenna options as I plan the Netgear modem install for our boat. I discovered that Wireng now offers the BoatAnt-Mini available with TS9 connector used by the LB1120. Price is around $170 for the Mini with the correct connector.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words, Bob!

      I did look at the BoatAnt-Mini specs a while ago, but haven’t tested it myself. Its pretty close in specs to the Wilson in terms of performance too. If you end up getting one it would be great to hear how it performs.

      Reply
  15. Steve, first off thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. I am just beginning to set up my boat network and this site has been an invaluable resource for me! That said, I’m not remotely close to a network engineer so most of this completely new to me. Your configuration file for the hAP AC was quite helpful. Is it possible for you to share your Groove configuration file with us as well?

    Reply
    • Hi Mark,
      I am working on an article specifically about setting up and configuring the Groove which should be ready shortly. I’ll make sure to include the configuration file from that in that article, and post an update here when I’m done!

      Reply
  16. Nice article. I have similar configuration on our boat with few exceptions:
    1) We have HAP AC LITE as main router. It is simply cheaper than HAP AC, the performance is sufficient for boat needs and it draws less power from battery.
    2) We use Mikrotik GrooveA 52 for antenna. The model with “A” in the name has a omni-antenna in the box, so i would suggest to simply buy this one.
    3) For LTE connectivity I simply use an old Android phone, that i connect via USB cable to router with Portable hotspot in USB-tethering mode.
    This has few advantages: it is easier to check balance, buy top ups, monitor data usage on the phone over other device. And it is possible to use that phone as mobile hotspot while i am away from the boat (for example if we go to restaurant or shop).

    Our boat is based in another country and we sail during vacations. So having 2 or more local sim cards for voice and data doesnt make much sense for me.

    Reply
  17. There is also a new model from Mikrotik – WAP LTE KIT (https://mikrotik.com/product/wap_lte_kit).

    It is a weatherproof access point with Ethernet connection and POE support.

    So you can mount it outside without the need of external antenna. It can work as Access Point (thus you can exclude additional router if you do not need several connections to Internet). Or you can use it like Netgear device.

    I have not tried it myself, but according to specs it is a nice device.

    Reply
    • The Groove configuration should be pretty simple.
      You set it to CPE mode (to act as client and connect to remote access point).
      Then you just need to fill in the quick set field.
      Mode – Router.
      IP address – the one that you want. Like 192.168.200.1 (but i would suggest something less popular then standard 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1, which are default on most networks, because in this case you will have routing problems).
      NetMask: 255.255.255.0
      DHCP server – easier if you turn it on. And set range like 192.168.200.10-192.168.200.20.
      And connect to remote network.

      These are the basic options that you need

      Reply
    • MikroTik has a ton of other products that you could potentially use on a boat. However, the ones I’ve included in my article above are the ones I have successfully been able to use on a boat with the various networks that tend to be available in US and Canadian marinas. The WAP LTE KIT has some limitations in terms of the SIM cards and antennas, and it has no WiFi radio, so you would need to pair it with an hAP AC or something similar.

      I have been purposefully choosing hardware that is the best fit for the job too – I don’t think that the WAP LTE KIT would be easy to configure and use with various LTE providers. We all know MikroTik’s RouterOS is very complicated, and I would rather have the Netgear or another product that just works, and then have more flexibility with the hAP AC for my WiFi network.

      Reply
  18. I have a steel boat which is wired as Insulated Return to avoid electrify running through the hull, any idea how the Drain wire would work in this case?

    Reply
    • Hi John,
      I’m not an expert with steel boats unfortunately. Every time I try to understand exactly how the power system should work on one, I am thrown a curve ball. I would suspect it would go to the same place that all other DC sources might be grounded, but I could be wrong.

      Reply
  19. I’m a bit confused about the use of the WAN/LAN ports on the router. I understand the LTE modem going to the WAN port. But how can the Groove WiFi booster go to a LAN port on the MikroTik router? Isn’t it a WAN source also? Is this taken care of in the router configuration scripts? Thanks for the articles. Great stuff. Wildly useful.

    Reply
    • Hi Joseph,
      If you have both the LTE router and a MikroTik, you would configure two ports to be WAN ports. You can also go as far as setting up rules or logic as to which one gets used first, and what happens when one fails/is disconnected.

      Typically, people prefer having the WiFi port as primary to save on LTE bandwidth costs or limits, and only using the LTE router when away from WiFi. I just recently set this up for someone where they prefer to power off the WiFi MikroTik and only then use the LTE side.

      MikroTik’s RouterOS is a bit complex, and there are a lot of options when setting stuff like this up. It does get into the more technical side of things. A lot of the time, folks who want it fully automated or easy drag-and-drop go with a more commercial solution like Peplink, but it does come at a cost.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the response, Steve. I’ve been looking at the MikroTik examples, for PCC and such, to see how to configure the router. You wouldn’t have the script you did for the WiFi/LTE setup you described in your response? Also, do you have a suggestion for an NMEA source, a simulator, I could use at home to play with this and an iKommunicate over the winter? I’d like to get everything working before next season. Boat just came out of the water this past weekend, and won’t go back in till next May. Great Lakes sailing in Canada. Thanks much.

        Reply
        • I don’t think I have the script from that particular setup, but what I used was a bit more simple than PCC. It came from the Advanced Routing Failover without Scripting doc on MikroTik’s site and then using the simple method of Two Gateways Failover https://wiki.mikrotik.com/wiki/Advanced_Routing_Failover_without_Scripting which uses a metric as to which one is more important.

          Depending on what you have for a PC, you could use SignalK (which is what the iKommunicate runs – a simpler version) or Canboat https://github.com/canboat/canboat – both on a Linux machine along with an Actisense NGW gateway or a cheaper open source version interface to be able to spit data onto an NMEA 2000 bus. Both of those projects come with some sample data that you can replay, as well as some online repositories where you can grab more realistic data as well. That’s not a bad idea for an article, actually!

          Sounds like a great time to work on getting things working, especially if the boat is out and safe from the winter elements!

          Reply
        • Hi Joseph. Were you able to get your router setup with the WiFi/LTE setup? I’m embarking on the same path, but will likely stumble a bit on this as I’m not a network guy.

          Reply
  20. Hi Steve! Just wanted to say “Thank you” for this post! I found a link to your site from a Slack workspace related to SignalK. I was working on a solution for using the RPI as an AP using the built-in WiFi (wlan0) along with an external WiFi dongle (wlan1). The results were dismal.

    Reply
    • Hi Jeff – glad it helped! I’ve tried RPI’s as all-in-one things before on boats and elsewhere, and while they are low power, once you start doing too much with them, it can get very unhappy. A few more watts and you can have a proper solution!

      Reply
  21. Hi Steve, Have you looked at the Peplink BR1 Mini. How would this compare with the Max TST that you installed on Grace. The cost of this unit for North America is around $300. It seems to have similar functionality as the Max TST. Am I missing anything on the comparision?

    Reply
    • Hi Brian,
      I have tested the BR1 Mini and it is very similar to the Max Transit, but there are some notable differences.

      First, it is smaller and has less CPU power, so it will be slower when it comes to configuration changes, and also overall throughput. That might not be a big deal depending on what you’re using it for.

      Second, it only supports LTE and not the newer LTE-A bands/radio that most things have moved or are moving towards, so if LTE speed and longevity of support are important, go the Transit route.

      Third, it does not have an ethernet WAN port by default (you have to buy an addon) so if you wanted to use a MikroTik Groove to grab a remote WiFi signal, and utilize the WAN port, you’d need to spend more for the addon.

      Same for using the built in WiFi to grab a remote WiFi signal – it’s a licensed add on.

      Both of those choices are a way for Peplink to push you to the Transit line instead of the mini BTW.

      Fourth, and this was big for me, it only supports 2.4Ghz for the WiFi AP, and at a reduced transmit power. 2.4Ghz is saturated at my home marina, and many places I visit, so I absolutely require 5Ghz for things to work reliably. The mini does not have it, and its 2.4Ghz is lower power as well.

      Fifth, and this is likely specific to me and a few others, it does not have PepVPN support. I use this to connect my boat, vacation house, and home all together in a mesh.

      From the software functionality perspective it has all of the other features as the Transit, so it is a good deal on that front. For me, the lack of WAN port and 5Ghz WiFi make it unusable for my daily configuration. Add in the lack of PepVPN and no LTE-A support, and the Transit line looks like the only choice 🙁

      Reply
  22. Steve–

    I always enjoyed your articles, and one more suggestion. Wifi at marinas seem to be degrading the longer we bop around and we seem to get poor connections. I especially like our home marina that routes 10.10.x.x which causes problems with our Raymarine network addressing due to address conflicts. Annoying, when the could have done 192.168.x.x on the endpoints.

    I almost brought the netgear modem, but after some research I got a Huawei Wi-Fi Router B310-518 (Amazon $83), it the international version. I plugged in a configured Mint wireless SIM (uses T-mobile) and it bridges the LTE network to all the devices on 2.4G that the boat needs. No more conflicts. Yea!

    One device, really simple and works fine our our usage which is only 1-2 weekends a month. YMMV. 🙂

    Reply
    • That’s a nice little unit. I’ve played with a similar one before, and it worked well. The only issues I had was when 2.4Ghz is saturated by other nearby devices, these sorts of solutions end up cutting out a lot. Thanks for posting the details!

      Reply
  23. Hi Steve, I have a questions for you.

    I am currently working on a project to synchronize SignalK data to the cloud. So far there are three communication options
    – WiFi
    – MiFi
    – Satellite/SSB radio(emails).

    So the question is – can I use references on your blog posts (especially this one for WiFI and MiFi hardware solutions) in SignalK discussions?

    Best regards

    Greg

    Reply
  24. I got all that hardware 🙂

    The Groove was setup as CPE/router, connected to a wifi network.

    The terminal of the groove even pings google ok.

    The Groove ethernet is connected in ether5 of an HAP ac and this is where it goes sour.

    No matter how I change the bridge, nat, routing, making ether5 a WAN port I cant seem to be able to have a proper return route to the Groove52.

    I can ping back the Groove from the HAP ac of course and vice-versa

    What am I missing?

    Can anyone share their configuration? I want people connecting to the HAP ac to have wifi connectivity – of course 🙂

    Many thanks!!

    Patrick

    Reply
    • It sounds like your hAP AC might not have a default route pointing to the Groove. Is it using the Groove as its WAN connection, thereby making that the default route? Or do you just have it connected as another device?

      You can also add a specific route for the Groove’s network as well. I assume you have two different subnets/networks assigned – one to the hAP AC and one to the Groove?

      Reply
  25. I’m curious whether this approach with Mikrotik router is better than using a peplink SoHo. Sure the peplink is about twice the price, and doesnt have the powered ethernet port, but software may be easier to deal with!

    The groove 52 is a pain, not because of all the countless knob and tuning function, but because on some versions, when rebooting, it goes on bridge mode and address reset to 0.0.0.0 and only way to get it back on track is winbox (with a PC…)!

    Reply
    • The Peplink is definitely far easier to deal with. My preferred configuration is the Peplink MAX Transit, which is almost $1000 and has a ton of additional functions and features, and is much easier to use. But the point of this article is solutions that are modular and cheaper 🙂

      Reply
      • thanks. and understood. Indeed because of the price, the peplink candidate here would be the SoHo, not the integrated LTE modem products. But looking at the features, and if the mikrotik wifi concurrent modes are good, then maybe the SoHo is not the right approach beyond its 3×3 mimo (and easier to managed software).

        Reply
        • The SOHO is a good option for those wanting to spend a bit more. I have helped setup three boats with a SOHO + Netgear + MikroTik. The MikroTik hAP AC router definitely has a more powerful WiFi radio, and can deal with boat DC power better than the SOHO, but if you want easier to use features, Peplink really cannot be beat right now.

          Reply
        • after multiple debates, i almost decided to go with the MR1-mk2. But it is impossible to source and seems the backordered dates gets pushed out every month.
          Transit is too expensive, i like the one set up described in this article, then looked at the SoHo to replace the Mikrotik… Then discovered the MOFI 4500. The price is basically in between a peplink MAX and a Mikrotik/Netgear combo, but only has one device, using Sierra wireless modem which i trust. Spec is basically same as Max BR1, so this is very tempting right now.
          Steve, any positive or negative feedback on MOFI ?

          Reply
  26. I’m getting ready to move aboard and need good internet for my job. I’m so thankful I came across your page, I appreciate all the work you’ve gone through to show us the best way to get good internet! What do you think of the Mofi unit instead of Peplink?

    Reply
    • I prefer the Peplink over the Mofi for two reasons – Peplink’s UI/software is far better, and their radios seem to be slightly stronger, but that is just based on my testing. Some people like the Mofi UI but I find it confusing.

      Reply
  27. Hi!

    Super helpful articles, thanks! I’m close to pulling the trigger on the Mikrotik antenna and router combo. However, I’m curious about the fact that a wifi connection is a two-way street. I definitely understand that an external antenna, preferably mounted outside and with some reasonable gain, will vastly improve my reception of wifi signals. My questions is, does the Groove boost my wifi signal transmission so that I can maintain a link with my target wifi source? I assume this is an import part of the puzzle if I want long-distance wifi connections.

    Reply
    • The Groove is essentially the outdoor antenna. It acts like a client, and using its attached antenna, grabs a remote WiFi signal and connects to it. Then its Ethernet port is connected to a computer or router inside to provide Internet access. In the case of the router above, the router then uses that as its source, and creates its own private, local WiFi networks that you manage for your devices on board.

      Does that answer your question?

      Reply
      • Thanks Steve. Another way to put my question is that I’m wondering about transmission power. I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that a good marina WiFi “system” transmits its signal with more power than my laptop or a typical home router. If that’s not the case, then question answered. But if that is the case (higher transmission power/watts), then it seems likely that I may be able to “see” a WiFi signal thanks to my high-gain antenna, but my transmission/outgoing signal may not be strong enough to establish or maintain a usable connection. Does that make any sense?

        Thanks!
        Paul

        Reply
        • It does. I actually wrote another article as to why Marina WiFi is hard.

          You could potentially pick up a WiFi signal inside a boat, but my extensive experience is that it will not be reliable. Having an external antenna or booster is the only way to make it reliable. Especially with all of the new devices that spew out their own networks, which will clutter the frequencies near you, and make keeping that signal while you’re inside very difficult.

          Reply
  28. I’ve been playing around with different pieces on the forums and here trying to get the configuration with these three routers to work but I can’t get a single thing to talk to another (that’s a bit of an exaggeration). Your config file links are broken, would it be possible to make those available again?

    Reply
    • Oh that is not supposed to have happened! I moved to a new blogging platform a few months ago, and I am guessing those either didn’t make it or have the wrong URLs. Let me investigate and get back to you.

      Reply
      • Hi Xerek – I was able to recover the configuration file and I changed the link in the article above. I had to move it to Google Drive, but it is public, so you should be able to see it/download it. Keep in mind that there have been several software revisions since the configuration was generated, so I would look at it line by line to make sure things match up with what your current config looks like.

        Reply
  29. Hi Steve,

    I would like to know your opinion. My sailing areas are not just US waterdm, but also Bermuda, Caribbean and Canada. I spoke about data-only SIMM cards with ATT, Verizon and T-Mobile. All these companies having these SIMM cards only for US and they will not work in other countries. So my question is : May be skip Netgear all together and use LTE Booster and use iPhone as hot spot? For some reason voice and data SIMM cards from these companies will work overseas.

    What do you think?

    Best regards

    Greg

    Reply
    • I use a T-Mobile SIM card in my router which has data services while I am in Canada. Other providers have this as well, including AT&T and Verizon, but you have to pay extra with all carriers either for an International version, or per gigabyte. My advise would be to look for a SIM card from each country you plan on traveling to, which is how most folks I know do it when traveling internationally.

      Reply
  30. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the great write up. I’m assuming this set up can be combined with a WeBoost 4G-X in front of the Netgear LTE router? If the router is located next to the booster internal antenna, I assume it would reduce the need for the MIMO antenna. But what do you think? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Ballard58,
      Thanks for the kind words! It definitely could be combined in the way you’re suggesting. I tested it that way a bit as well as I have the WeBoost and some other amplifiers aboard. It definitely is a better solution than just a MIMO antenna as it gives you much better signal strength in remote areas.

      Reply
  31. I bought all the hardware from Germany. My boat is in Holland.

    I had a couple of challenges and have get to get it all working.

    The groove was not accessable via IP out of the box and I had to use winbox to get to ithe MAC address to configure it.

    Also all the Mikrotik routers have the same default IP and since you have the groove and the hap on the same network there is a conflict. I was able to get the IP for one router changed to avoid the conflict. I can now log onto the netgear modem, the groove or the hap admin consoles and have been able to configure them,as recommended, including getting the groove online at the marina wifi. The groove works fine on its own connected directly to,my laptop.

    What is not clear is how to get LAN Port 5 on the hAP reconfigured to be a WAN port and how to easily switch between the LTE and Wifi WANs without physically moving cables. I was working on the issue for a few hours and have yet to get it working. I can ping and get to the consoles of all three devices but cannot get any internet traffic through the groove via the LAN port. I have read that this can be done by updating the NAT but I have to figure out how to do that.
    Overall I would suggest that the articles stress the complexity of getting this working as I see others have had the same problem. I’m sure that a network engineer can get it working, but I am software engineer and am finding it very complex and may never get there Anyone going this route should,be aware of the time required to configure the hap and the possibility that they may never get it to work.

    Sorry to sound frustrated but there seems no way to do this without rolling up my sleeves and digging into the many config settings to try to trace the traffic.

    Tim

    Reply
    • Hi Tim,

      I think I’m pretty clear that configuring MikroTik is not for the faint of heart – it’s sprinkled throughout this article, and even earlier in the text, mentions choosing commercial solutions if you don’t have a technical background, or are interested in researching these things. Part of why this stuff is so much cheaper than the commercial ones is that they are really not easy to put together depending on your configuration!

      In the article, I also mention a possible setup to use two WAN devices:

      “To configure failover between LTE and WiFi, I recommend reading Two gateways failover and Advanced Routing Failover on MikroTik’s site. Please note the example configuration file provided above does not include the failover configuration.”

      That would be one way to setup having both your LTE and WiFi upstream connections. You can set priorities based on routes and such, and allow one to take over when the other fails, etc.

      One way I have setup this equipment for many others who don’t want to get into the technical bits is to use a power switch on one or the other, and have them setup with the Two Gateways Failover configuration. They can turn off the WiFi booster both to say power, and also to force it to use LTE when they know they want that setup while underway. Lots of options to choose from.

      Reply
      • Thanks Steve.

        Sorry, if I seemed ungrateful. I know what a thankless task it is to maintain a site like yours and I don’t want to be one of the complainers, I really am very appreciative for what you have done here.

        The good news is the Netgear LTE+hAP is working great! I can also get the Groove well to work if I turn off the firewall rules in the hAP, unplug the Netgear LTE and plug the groove into Port 1.

        With the Netgear in Port 1 and the Groove in Port 5 I can get to the consoles of both and also the hAP once I changed the IP of the hAP to 198.168.88.2 to avoid the conflict with the Groove.

        What I have not been able to do is to get any internet traffic through Port 5 because I think its configured by default as a LAN and not a WAN port.

        I have looked for the article you mentioned – Two gateways Failover, but unfortunately the content seems to have been moved on the Mikrotik site so no luck there. There other article about Advanced Routing Failover is there but I have not looked into doing that yet. I am not trying to do any automatic failover, just something simple like turning the power of the groove or LTE unit would be fine. Its not really easy to get to the units where I have them mounted so I have to find a way to switch between them using software or by cutting power to one or the other rather than moving the cables between the ports.

        I feel I must be almost there. I have yet to figure out how to load a configuration file rather than using the WebFig settings – once I know how to do that then Ill try your file and see if it will work for me.

        Thanks again for all your help,

        Tim

        Reply
        • I reset my Groove to try to restart the configuration and it no longer can be accessed via http and neither netinstall nor winbox can see it so looks like its bricked. When it starts up I get one beep and the top light stays on.

          I may look for a different solution or just forget about boosting wifi.

          Reply
          • Yikes, that does not sound good! I have seen a few out of box failures, but very few bricked units. I’ve been able to recover them almost every time, but I usually do it with it directly connected to a machine without anything else in the way. Sometimes other routers or software can really mess with things.

            The biggest challenge and reason for using MikroTik is that there are no other affordable vendors I have found that provide both 2.4Ghz / 5Ghz single unit solutions.

            Hope you’re able to recover yours!

          • Thanks Steve, I have taken it down from the mast and removed it out of the case and it is plugged directly into the LAN port on my Laptop and I’m using the PoE adapter. The manual that came in the box looks to be for the Metal version and says that there is a hole on the corner of the circuit board that can be shorted with a screwdriver to do a hard reset. There are also references on the mikrotik boards that describe this and show photos. Unfortunately the new versions of the groove appear to have removed this reset hole. All we have is the reset button which I have tried about 50 times now, including trying to set it in netinstall mode. I used to be able to see it with WINBOX, but that doesnt work anymore. I have loaded Netinstall to try to reload the OS, but get to the point where the Groove should show up in Netinstall and it never appears. I’ve tried different cables and different laptops with the same result. The unit turns on, the top light stays on and the bottom light flashes for a while and goes out. It gives one beep. There is a 12 month warranty from Mikrotik but it only applies if you buy it directly from the factory in Latvia. I dont think I will get anywhere with the reseller on amazon as shipping it back will likely cost as much as the unit cost. I was able to originally get it to work directly to the Laptop and even through the hAP Port 1 before the last reset that I did using RouterOS so it did work. I think the backup copy of Router OS that is stored on the unit must have become corrupted somehow and so it is not able to recover using the reset.

            I am very happy with the LTE only setup using the netgear and the hAP which works really well. But the solution with the Groove proved very brittle in my experience. I have done Mesh systems and wired ethernet homes with switches and hubs and have written java code on the tcpip stack as a software engineer so know a little about networking but I am not a network engineer.

        • Hi Tim,
          I think there still might be some conflicts with the IP addressing you’re using. I would change the hAP to be some other subnet completely, like 192.168.10.0/24. Leave the Groove at 192.168.88.0/24 because you may have to reset it and back to its defaults. That way the 192.168.88.0/24 subnet is not conflicting by having both the hAP and Groove both on that network, especially if you ever intend on using the Groove on the hAP WAN port. Having that subnet the same will lead to routing loops, among other things. In addition, when the Groove is connected to the LAN subnet/ports on the hAP it could start offering DHCP and conflict with similar IP addresses that the hAP AC already has handed out.

          Strange on the MikroTik articles – I will see if I can find updated versions as they are pretty common to be setup that way. The automatic failover setup will still be partially relevant because it will show you how to have two ports on the WAN bridge.

          Reply
  32. Hi Steve,
    Great article as always. Just wondering why the Peplink Balance models weren’t considered?
    The Balance 20 with the Netgear or the Balance 30 with integrated dual SIM LTE.

    Have done a bit of research and seem a cheaper option that (I think) fulfils the intention of this system setup…?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Rick,
      I have used the Balance line of products extensively for home and office use, and actually have 4 Balance Ones for my core network. There’s a reason that the Balance 20 and 30 don’t work for this setup – they only have 2.4Ghz WiFi, while the MikroTik has both 2.4 and 5Ghz, which is very important for modern devices, and noisy marinas. There are many places I’ve troubleshot problems where 2.4Ghz is completely unusable.

      If you’re thinking of using the Balance 20 or 30 to grab a remote WiFi signal instead of the MikroTik Groove, you’ll also lose part of your internal WiFi when you do that.

      In terms of cheaper or similar – the Balance 20 is $300, and the 30 with LTE is $600. For that $600 price, you’re better off looking at the MAX line of Peplink products, or even Cradlepoint.

      For the Balance 20, you’d not have an external antenna, which the Netgear does in my list, no outdoor WiFi antenna (Groove) and you have no 5Ghz. To add at least the two first items would push the price of the 20 far beyond this list of equipment.

      Good idea though – it would be nicer to have a single product and Peplink’s features are awesome, but I don’t think this would be an apples to apples comparison!

      Reply
      • Thanks Steve all great points, the 5GHz escaped my mind when I looked at this. But you’re right about antenna costs etc.

        Thinking I may start with the Netgear and router setup, and add a Microtik later if I feel there is WiFi to be used.

        Reply
  33. Steve,

    I have had WiFi from the marina here in Long Beach for four years via their Ubiquiti airGateway PRO access point and had no issues and get around 15 Mbps. Based on reading some of your cellular internet articles, I recently bought a Peplink Pepwave MAX BR1 (AT&T sim) that I connected to a Wilson Omni antenna for when I am at Catalina. In testing at the dock I get about 10 Mbps down and hope it will work in Catalina once I am back over there in March.

    My question is if I want to be able to extend the range of the Pepwave so I can use it from shore at Emerald Bay (400-500 feet) would the Mikrotik be a good solution?

    Thank you in advance,

    Tim Daleo

    Reply
    • Hi Tim,
      Just so I make sure I understand what you’re trying to do – you want to take the local WiFi signal generated by the Peplink and increase it’s power so you can use it from shore?

      That’s a bit more complicated – the MikroTik Groove is meant to grab a remote WiFi signal from somewhere further away, and bring it into the boat as a source of internet, like your LTE SIM, etc.

      Taking the WiFi signal from the Peplink and increasing its range is a bit more complicated. Most WiFi APs only go about 600′ line of sight without any interference, and that is in perfect conditions. If your Peplink is inside your boat, you already have interference in the hull and other nearby stuff.

      You could carry a MikroTik to shore and use it to grab your WiFi signal from the Peplink, but you’d have to power it somehow, and then it would only output that to an Ethernet cable. You’d need another access point, etc. etc.

      It’s not a particularly easy problem to solve since you really do need some sort of hardware on shore, or a directional antenna…

      Reply
      • Thank you for the quick response and it is restates my question correctly. Is there an external WiFi antenna you would recommend that I could connect to the Pepwave Wifi SMA connector that might increase the signal outside the boat? I have the Pepwave unit inside a fiberglass cabinet on the back deck of the boat and have easy access to the roof.

        Reply
        • I don’t have any super-favorites, although I have been using a Altelix Dual Band 8dBi Outdoor WiFi Omni Antenna (https://amzn.to/38HB74v) for the last year or so on my MikroTik with pretty good results.

          It’s dual band, which you won’t likely need if you have the non 5Ghz version of the BR1. There are some antennas that claim a 10-15db increase for 2.4Ghz but I’m not sure they are worth it.

          The Altelix does not have a marine mount, which can make it a bit of a pain. I’m still searching for a dual band one that does so I can connect it to my Peplink stuff and have indoor/outdoor antennas.

          Reply
  34. Please let me know when you find a 1-1/4 mount wifi antenna. IT can be confusing looking at antennas and knowing which ones can work for WiFi!

    Reply
  35. Hi Steve,

    Thanks so much for your articles. Really appreciate your knowledge, but some time to technical for me. I am actually sailing down the CA coast to cruise to Mexico and beyond. I am looking at an economically satisfying solution for WiFi and LTE connections.

    I was directed to your website by somebody who followed your advices. I was looking at your “Modular, cheaper boat internet solution via Netgear and MikroTik” and looking at adapting it to international setup. I liked the price and I think I can work with the MicroTik setup, but looking around I couldn’t find a similar modem to Netgear that will work internationally. What would you replace the Netgear for international use?

    If you think you could also update your 2018 article with product that came out lately, I would really appreciate. Looking forward to your reply and advices.

    Regards.

    Reply
    • Hi Bernard,

      International gets challenging. The best solution would be a commercial product that has international LTE radios – both Peplink and Cradlepoint’s newest versions are now all international, rather than having to choose between US and other. Those are going to be more expensive, but you will find they support more bands internationally that will be important.

      Which article in particular are you looking for an update on? This one?

      Reply

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