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Marine Wi-Fi vs Cell Boosters

Which one is right for you?

There is a lot of hype about marine cell boosters and 4G modems. Let's take a look at the difference and see what solution will work best for you. Cell boosters and 4G modems have their place, it's about finding the solution that works for you. We have gone over some of the finer points about both options and answered some of the frequently asked questions we get in the field.

How do they work?

Cell Boosters

A cell booster uses an external antenna to pickup better stronger signal, and re-distributes that on a smaller scale to your phone. Boosters require an antenna to pickup the signal and an antenna to distribute this. Limitations occur when you have several users, or limitations on your data plan, however unlike a 4G data modem a booster will allow voice calls.

While this can be a great solution for some, there are some drawbacks.

  1. Cell boosters are locked to a single network. If you have friends or family on the boat and their mobile is of a different provider, the system will not work for them. The system can only be locked to one provider at a time (Some systems allow you to change provider on the go, but still only 1-at-a-time).

  2. Relies on the data plan existing on your phone. Sure, you can connect and use your phone as a hotspot for your friends. However you are limited by your phones capability as a modem, the network speed of your connection and your data limitations. A few users streaming and this could become a very frustrating and slow network.

  3. It only boosts the signal it gets. If you have multiple devices connecting it will still only have the signal and throughput of "one-device" and will have limited speeds.

4G Marine Wi-Fi

Think of this like your modem at home or at work, however instead of relying on a fibre connection or broadband, the system uses 4G cell data. External cellular antennas pick up the signal much further out than a regular cell phone. The modem has it's own SIM and plan - some offering FULL unlimited high-speed data with no caps.

Modems can also allow a much smoother connection for different users and anyone onboard with Wi-Fi capability can connect and use the data plan. This means you can be watching the game while others may be video calling or streaming on other devices.

Ideal for business applications, streaming media, or using live data feeds for marketing or social media.

Here are some of the benefits of these systems as opposed to a cell booster:

  1. Any Wi-Fi device can connect.

  2. Load balancing - ability to handle several users without performance loss.

  3. International roaming.

  4. UNLIMITED DATA AT HIGH SPEED - Don't rely on your 30gb per month plan, when you're on the boat and the whole family wants to chew through your data.

  5. Your boat is online making way for security systems and monitoring, check out some options here.

How much range are we talking here?

Some of our clients at Global Marine are getting up to 70km offshore with suitable data speeds for streaming. This of course depends on several things. Think about 4G signal as line-of-sight, the higher your antenna, the further it can see. 4G signal typically drops off around 70km offshore at a max, you can see a rough coverage map here.

Which is right for you?

Some questions to ask yourself when deciding:

  1. Why do you need data? Business? Entertainment? Live streaming media?

  2. What is more important? Voice or Data? In saying this, you can do voice over Wi-Fi and apps like WhatsApp, Viber etc support Voice calls over data connections.

  3. How much data do you need? Are you streaming? Uploading? Do you need a stable fast connection for business applications?

  4. Which network are you using? Are you happy to be locked to that network?

  5. Will other people be onboard wanting to use this the data connection?

  6. Do you have onboard systems that require monitoring?

What about the cost?

Well, you may be surprised to hear that the hardware options for these solutions are similarly priced, however the 4G and modem setup does require a SIM card and a data plan. These differ depending on which plan you require and how much data you need.

In this day and age it's easy to see why data is so much more flexible when it comes to being connected. Messaging, calling, and streaming is all done over 4G data - you can be connected like you are in the home or office.

Why work from home when you can work from the boat?

At Global Marine we pride ourselves on being at the leading edge of tech in the marine sector. Partnered with the worlds best we only offer tried and true solutions.

After years of research and development we have selected the best products for the job by combining antenna, modem and SIM in harmony. These solutions maximise on the existing 4G and cellular networks available by using antennas specifically designed for the job and pairing them with the right hardware.

Get in touch and see why we're the best and what options we have to suit your needs.

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