Internet at sea is a fickle little issue. In the past, the answer for most of us has been either to tie up at a Wi-Fi-equipped marina (and complain endlessly that it doesn’t work as it should) or embark on a spot of improvised home-botchery.
I, for instance, use a mobile broadband dongle on the end of a USB cable, fed through a porthole and gaffer-taped to the roof inside a small Tupperware beaker. It has been my sole surfing tool for the last four years and it is the means by which I am uploading this very blog. It will only serve one gadget at a time but it costs just £15 a month and it works pretty consistently wherever I am in southern England.
However, where there’s clear demand for a purpose-built gadget, you know a more polished solution is just around the corner and Buzz Connect has introduced it. Known as the HubbaX4 Duo, it is a marine broadband system, which uses 3G and 4G mobile connectivity to achieve download speeds of up to 100Mbps. Designed to service your onboard laptops, tablets and smartphones, it comes with dual SIM ability, so you can switch between providers to maximise connectivity as you cruise through different regions. The waterproof dome (IP67) houses a high-gain, multi-directional antenna, which will apparently enable rapid broadband in coastal waters and a “robust” connection up to 15 miles offshore. Below decks, the N-type Wi-Fi hub has a remote antenna to create a broadband hot spot in your boat with multi-channel connectivity and 12v, 24v or 240v options to match your power system.
In short, as a means of maximising your chances of reliable marine Internet (without dependence on VSAT) it looks great, but there’s always a catch and in this instance, it’s the price. Sadly, at around £2,150, it remains a gadget either for those with cash to burn or for those whose Internet access is a matter of life and death. Much as I would like to invest, it looks like I’ll have to persevere with my dongle in a beaker.
For more DIY solutions, such as my USB WiFi dongle, see: 10 free and cheap boat improvements. And assuming you can get connected to the Internet, make the most of your smartphone or tablet: 10 Top iPhone and Smartphone Apps for Power Boaters.