How Does WiFi Work On a Boat? (Explained)

Over the last few decades, boats have become better equipped with new technologies for safety and efficiency. Over that time, communications have been revolutionized by the internet. So can you access the internet from a boat when you’re out on the lake or at sea?

Boats don’t have built-in WiFi as standard equipment. While modern boats are equipped with plenty of advanced technology like sonar and enhanced radio communications, they don’t come with built-in WiFi. A WiFi connection, however, can be added using an additional accessory at any time.

Continue reading this piece for an in-depth view into how boats connect to the internet and communicate with the rest of the world. I’ll also explore whether all boats can have WiFi access and what you can expect in the way of internet service while you’re out at sea.

A boat on the ocean

How Do Boats Connect to the Internet?

The majority of small and commercial boats will not come with built-in WiFi. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t access the internet while on a ship. So how do boats get internet access even after leaving the port and heading to open water?

Boats connect to the internet through mobile data, a WiFi extender that reaches a WiFi signal on land, or a broadband global area network (BGAN). BGAN offers portable internet access through an adapter connected to satellites that provide ships with access to the internet while out at sea.

BGAN works by sending a signal tens of thousands of miles up to a satellite. The signal is then returned back to the ship. Due to this massive journey, you might experience a slower internet connection. As a result, apps and media that require a good internet connection won’t work.

However, boats can invest in high-quality routers that allow better internet access. This will boost the quality of your connection while away from land. Ships with a satellite dish or large antenna may even be able to pick up HDTV or excellent WiFi signals thousands of miles from home.

Is There WiFi on Yachts?

There’s no WiFi signal built into yachts. However, many yacht owners invest in devices to supply the vessel with a WiFi signal while out at sea. You can connect to WiFi through mobile data while you’re on a yacht if you’re close enough to land.

The majority of luxury yachts are equipped with some form of internet connection. However, the internet in these vessels is provided through a cellular connection or a satellite device.

WiFi equipment on a boat

Check out these devices available on Amazon that supply you with internet while out at sea:

Inmarsat Wideye BGAN Satellite Terminal is a portable WiFi connection that provides you with a connection, even when you’re thousands of miles from civilization. However, the cost of this item makes this purchase too expensive for many boat owners.

KING Automatic WiFi Extender is an affordable way to provide your boat with internet access. However, since this is an extender, you’ll need to be within a specific range of a WiFi connection at the shore. As a result, you won’t have internet while far from land with this setup.

How Fast Is the Internet on a Yacht?

The internet on a yacht is between 1mbps and 40mbps in most cases. However, the exact WiFi speeds will depend on your location, signal coverage, proximity to the internet connection, and the device you use to connect. For instance, phones have a relatively slow connection to WiFi on a yacht.

When you’re on land, the internet signal will rise and fall depending on where you are. Even if you are using mobile data, you’ll notice the signal is more potent in specific locations, like up high or clear of buildings.

When you’re out at sea, it’s a similar case. Your internet connection will be stronger in some locations and weaker in others. If you rely on mobile data for internet access, your cell coverage is usually a good indicator of how fast your internet connection will be.

If your yacht is in the marina, you’ll likely have some sort of internet connection. Whether you’re receiving a WiFi signal from another boat or a local business, or the marina itself offers WiFi, you’ll likely have a connection close to land.

Therefore, it’s difficult to give an exact number for how fast your internet connection is on a yacht.

Do Most Marinas Have WiFi?

By this stage in the article, you’re well versed in whether different types of boats have WiFi included. You’ll also be able to access the internet while you are out at sea. However, what about when you are docked in the marina? Are you likely to get WiFi access?

Most marinas do have WiFi. However, some small or old-fashioned marinas will likely not have any WiFi access. The WiFi signal in a marina will also be stronger in some areas than in others, and when you pull away from the shore, the WiFi signal will drop in strength until it’s gone.

Boats in a marina often have access to wifi

A powerful WiFi extender is usually sufficient for many boats to connect to a signal in the marina while they go out on the water nearby. However, the further the boat travels from shore, the slower the connection. Eventually, the boat will lose all connection after passing a certain distance, so having a backup device to keep you connected is probably a good idea. 

This video shows how to get unlimited satellite internet on a boat using a KVH V30.

How Does WiFi Work On a Boat – Summary

The majority of boats do not have built-in WiFi. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t access the internet while out on the water. If you’ve got a cellular connection, you can get it through mobile data. On top of this, many bigger ships install WiFi devices to offer internet access to the crew.

One device commonly used to provide an internet connection while out at sea is a BGAN terminal. These devices offer WiFi to the boat from a satellite. However, the signal is typically poor, and streaming videos or apps requiring a good connection is often impossible.

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