This page sets out how we make wifi available to all devices aboard while still only using a single hotspot connection. The hotspot connections we have found vary both in usability and suitability. Some provide a logon that will only work for one device and some signals are very weak so benefit from an external antenna to boost range. There are commercial solutions around, but these cost may hundreds of €’s. The solution we have cost fraction of the commercial units. Our solution is..
Ubiquito Networks Bullet M Outdoor Radio, this, with the addition of an antenna provides a connection to marina provided Wi-Fi hotspots and presents the connection to us onboard via an Ethernet cable. This cable could be connected directly to a laptop for single user access but we connect this to a router which makes the service available to all our devices we have on board via a private Wi-Fi network, just as you would with your broadband at home.
The antenna used is also outdoor rated and can connect directly to the Bullet M, although we have this connected via high quality cable to the Bullet M, the antenna being mounted on a bracket above our radar at the stern.
Our Antenna is an 8db Omni directional antenna with a suitable connection for the Bullet M. Don’t be tempted to go for a higher gain antenna, the problem is that the higher the gain the more directional the antenna becomes, boats move about all the time.
The Router which connects to the Antenna via Ethernet cable and re broadcasts the internet connection via our own private Wi-Fi network is an Aztech HW550-3G which we have had for a few years and performs very well. Not sure if this is still available though. The router also has the benefit of supporting 3G dongles, which allows an alternate connection method should a public hotspot not be available. I am sure there are routers available now that provide similar functionality but allow connection of the later 4G dongles
All this equipment is power by 12v DC which make connection very easy. I have separate switches to enable the router and the Bullet, not powering the bullet if I am using a 3G dongle
Some care should be taken when configuring the router and bullet as you should endeavour to ensure the IP addressing used does not conflict or overlap with any addressing provided by the hotspot provider or of course any internet site you may wish to visit. I have come across a few locations where the default setup will just not work. But there are ways, although this is quite a technical area, if you need more information please post a query or email me directly.