Social Networking at Sea: 3G Using a USB Modem

An excerpt from “Social Networking at Sea” by Nancy and Burger Zapf from the February 2011 issue of Blue Water Sailing.

If you are going to live aboard in one place for a while, you might want to explore options that give you Internet access wherever you are, afloat or ashore. Most countries have Wi-Fi providers that offer broadband coverage at considerable expense. One alternative is 3G, using a USB modem (“data card”) that accesses the Web on your laptop via the same chip you use for your cell phone. Cell phone coverage is usually more widely available than Wi-Fi. Untethered USB 3G data cards can be purchased at cell phone stores for about $50.

On Halekai, we go the way of redundancy to maximize out communication possibilities. We have a compact amplified external Wi-Fi antenna from Islandtime PC with a built-in one-amp Wi-Fi transmitter. It is connected to a router inside the boat and powered by an Ethernet cable. Getting power over Ethernet avoids the use of large diameter antenna cables.

Our Wi-Fi router has a 3G USB modem port, allowing us to connect more than one computer to the Internet behind the modem firewall. This eliminates the practice of paying separate Wi-Fi or 3G access fees for each of our laptops.

For more on Social Networking at Sea, including cell phones for voice and data, Winklink and Sailmail, Shadowmail, SATPHONE, and cruiser web sites, blogs and Facebook, pick up the February issue of BWS.

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