|Internet Access Onboard|
|If you have spent any time browsing this website I am sure you are aware that I make frequent if not continuous use of the Internet. Most of this access is via WIFI, either that provided by marinas at which I berth Sarah, by commercial WIFI services, or by people who don't secure their WIFI routers. I also use Wireless access provided by Verizon Wireless. I have set up this page to provide documentation on the various services and hardware I use to gain access to the Internet from Sarah.||Verizon
Upgraded Verizon Broadband
ALFA USB Adapters
|Verizon Wireless Broadband Access|
|This is the high-price solution, using
the Verizon Wireless network and their broadband service.
I started using this service in 2003, using a Sierra Wireless
card, when I first moved onboard Sarah. It was my
principle Internet access until I departed for Europe in 2005.
During that period the service was hit and miss as this was a
very early implementation of Internet Broadband access via cell
phone technology. On the way down the AICW in 2004 I
discovered that there was no service in North Carolina.
When I returned to the states in 2007 I renewed this service with a newer generation PCMIA card as shown on the right. This is a Pantech PC5750 card, and is much improved over the Sierra Wireless card.
Verizon Wireless PCMIA Cart
D-Link DIR-450 Router
|One of the advantages of the Pantech card is that it is
supported by the D-Link DIR450 router. I can insert the
card in the router shown on the left and it converts the
Wireless Internet connection into a WIFI network onboard Sarah.
With this router I can connect multiple computers to my single
Verizon Wireless access. The drawback to this router is
that it is AC powered. When I am away from shore power
this router must be powered by an inverter. The advantage
for me, other than providing access for multiple computers, is
that most new technology PCs do not have a PCMIA port.
So this router is the only way I can use my Verizon service with
those computers. The only option is to upgrade to a USB
Wireless Modem, which requires a 2-year contract or a
hefty price. This router allows me to continue to use
Verizon Wireless Broadband service with my Dell XPS-16 computer,
which does not have a PCMIA port.
In 2007 this was an expensive($60/month), and limited (5GByte/month) service, but at that time wireless access was more widely available when cruising the US East Coast than WIFI. One advantage is I can shut down this service when berthed for an extended time in a marina with WIFI, and then restore the service when needed.
|Verizon Broadband Upgraded|
In July, 2012 I broke down and signed up with Verizon for
another 2-year contract. The purpose of the contract
was to upgrade my service to 4G LTE. The PCMIA card was
not even 3G.
Below on the right is a picture of the Verizon JetPack, which replaces both the PCMIA card and the D-Link router. There are a number of features with this device that motivated me to do the upgrade.
After only a couple of weeks of use I've discovered several limitations, if not design flaws, in this product.
As of 2016 I still use this service. The problems listed above have largely disappeared, probably because of improvements in the Verizon network.
|ALFA USB WIFI Adapters|
|ALFA is a supplier of a wide range of WIFI-related products. I first purchased an ALFA adapter in 2008 and used it that winter in the Abacos. I have sinced purchased several more of these USB adapters. They are not weather proof and fail quickly when left on deck in a rain shower. I now put them in a zip-lock bag when they are exposed to the elements. On the right is a picture of the ALFA AWUS036NH adapter with a 9db antenna. The standard antenna supplied with the adapter is 5db.|
|On the left is the ALFA UBDo outdoor WIFI adapter. This is a 12db antenna in a weather-proof case. This antenna is directional, but not so much that normal boat motion will disturb the connection. When Sarah is berthed at a marina with WIFI for an extended period of time, this is the WIFI antenna I use. This antenna is particularly useful in a marina with the WIFI source at the marina office and Sarah is berthed in one of the remote transient berths.|
|The weather proofing on this antenna is very effective when mounted vertically as shown in the picture above. I discovered that the cable access at the bottom of the case is not sealed. In 2013 the unit failed while I was in the Bahamas because I got into the habit of just laying it on deck or on top of the dodger. After a couple of rainstorms water got into the case and destroyed the electronics. This could have easily been prevented by the application of sealant around the cable entry port.|