REVIEW The right wifi or 4G antenna for your onboard internet connection

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Nowadays, having a good internet connection on board will make you more comfortable to navigate. Near the coast, you can use your smartphone or tablet (which, by activating the “tethering” function, will share the connection with any other devices, such as laptops) or wifi antennas. With the emergence of the high-speed 4G network, performance similar to that of an ADSL line (50 to 100 Mbps on average) is achieved. And with 5G expected to go into service around 2020, the result will be comparable to fiber optics. But if you go a few miles away from the mainland, the signal weakens and disappears.

SATELLITE? IF YOU MAKE LONG CROSSINGS
For long crossings, there are no alternatives to satellites (Iridium, Inmarsat, Thuraya), which are reliable but not the cheapest in terms of initial purchase and subscription. This will not change, at least in the near future: operators of 4G (and soon 5G) networks have no interest in “covering” the sea, as the number of users remains relatively low and often confined to certain times of the year (summer) and week (weekends).

4G UP TO 20 MILES FROM THE COAST.
But if you frequently sail in the Mediterranean, and you find yourself having to cut through gulfs or reach islands that are quite close to the mainland, there is a solution that will allow you to never lose the signal: we are talking about 4G antennas. Their function is to optimally receive 3H, H+, 3G, and 4G signals and make them available to on-board instruments via an Ethernet cable or router and a possible Wi-Fi access point. With the higher-performance antenna, you can hope to have 4G on board up to twenty miles from the coast. Often they are plug & play: that is, they are easily mounted, just insert a SIM card et voila.

WHY THE 4G ANTENNA IS WORTHWHILE
We contacted Alessandro Bambi from the technical department of Glomex, an Italian company that produces one of the most cutting-edge 4G/Wifi antennas on the market, the Webboat 4G Plus, to let him tell us more about the “antenna universe.” “If a cell phone provides coverage, under optimal conditions, up to 3-4 miles from the coast, with a good 4G antenna you can get up to five times the range,” Bambi began. “But the big advantage is the ability to have as many devices connected (up to 32) without having problems with power autonomy. If you then opt for a dual SIM model (such as Webboat, i.e., equipped with two slots for as many SIM cards, you will also have the advantage of being able to ‘switch’ between one card and the other: very convenient if you frequently surf in different countries (such as between Italy and France or Croatia. By purchasing a foreign SIM the antenna, once you cross borders, will automatically switch to using the latter, avoiding the additional roaming costs.” Wiring the antennas is simple: since they are often powered by 12 or 24 V they have only the double red and black cable. “Consumption on average is 0.5/0.6 Ah at 12 V. The farther away from the coast the more they increase because the antennas use more energy to pick up the repeater signal.”

We’ve selected eight reliable models of wifi and 4G antennas for you from our 2018 Accessories Special, the one-stop guide to best equipping your boat. You can find it on newsstands and digitally for 4.90.

Glomex / Webboat 4G Plus
The Webboat 4G Plus wifi/4G antenna from Italy’s Glomex includes a built-in router, dual SIM option and automatic switch between 4G and Wifi. The download and upload speeds are 100 and 50 megabits per second, respectively. The power supply is 12 and 24 V. www. glomex.it

MVG / Neptulink new Version
This 4G antenna model has a lower cost, has a built-in router but no dual sim function, making it suitable for those who surf but do not “trespass” into other countries. Again, the download and upload speeds claimed by the manufacturer are 100 and 50 mbps. www.mvg-world.com

Scout /KS 60
It is an omnidirectional antenna designed to enable long-range WiFi connections. Just connect the 5m USB cable to the USB port of your computer, download the drivers and browse freely. The KS-60 combines a state-of-the-art WiFi card and a 12dB gain antenna inside. www.nauticplace.com

Buzz Marine / Hubba x4-Duo
From England’s Buzz Connect a top-of-the-line product: the Hubba X4-Duo antenna, with built-in autorouter, dual sim, automatic switch and dual 12 and 24 V power options. The only gripe? The price a bit high (about 1,600 euros). www.buzzconnect.co.uk

Nautigamma / Wi-Boat antenna and kit
Nautigamma offers Wi-Boat, a series of kits to create a complete wifi network on board. It starts with the entry level J1, consisting of a router with a 3G SIM, a WAN port for wi-fi hotspots, and 3 LAN ports. The high-power radio module is 1.6W, the antenna 6 dB. www.nauticplace.com

Rogue Wave
A bridge system capable of converting wifi and Ethernet signal with a power of 800 mw. When connected to a router, the Rogue Wave provides the Internet to many devices. www.landandseawifi.com

The Wirie / AP+
A waterproof wireless module that creates a private Wi-Fi network for your boat and connects over shore networks easily. The antenna is 8 dB and with 1 W wifi module. www.thewirie.com

Captifi
A small, compact, waterproof, fully powered wifi antenna via USB port with 8 dB gain. It is a plug-and-play device. www.nauticplace.com

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