4G and your mobile network – get it right

Sep 19, 2017 | News

Understanding Your 4G Network

4G networks provide high-speed cellular data services. This is achievable and anyone who tells you otherwise is not a good provider!

Achieving high-speed involves a few considerations, though. The 4G router and compatible antennas must be carefully chosen, correctly positioning the antennas is crucial and the data service itself brings several issues.

Don’t let this overwhelm you – read on for expert advice.


4G Routers

With so many choices of routers out there, what to get for your yacht? This is easier if you break it down into considerations. You need to think about:

  • Will it integrate with your current IT network? Integration is a hot topic for a reason. Without it, you could end up spending a lot of money just for limited connection and some very frustrated guests. Is it going to work in the US, EU, or APAC? Some products are designed for static home owner use and so have limitations on location or are SIM locked.
  • Is it true 4G? If a Router states it is 4G without mentioning LTE (Long Term Evolution) then it is probably HSPA (High Speed Packet Access). HSPA is a faster version of 3G that is nowhere near as fast as 4G.
  • Does the router support suitable antennas? Some routers are restricted to a terminal mounted antenna. Others do not have the amplification needed to run through a ships antenna cabling to an external antenna. Can it take advantage of the higher theoretical speeds available with dual antennas?

After working through this list, you will likely still find many potential routers that seem fitting for your yacht. Working with a specialised marine communication provider can help you narrow down the selection. They should thoroughly test all the routers they sell using industry standard test scenarios, ensuring only the best are recommended to you.


4G Antennas

Too often there is minimal mast space left for the 4G antenna, meaning it is relegated to wherever it can squeeze in. Yet the physical positioning of the antenna is very important. Cell networks are often affected by line of sight problems that may not be apparent at first. You may discover these problems too late if you have already drilled holes in your smart Antenna Deck. Key considerations when installing your 4G antenna are:

  • Having it at the optimum height.
  • Keeping it away from interference/somewhere it may cause its own interference – ensuring a clear path with low reflective noise.
  • Antenna needs to be placed close to the router – with the right RF cable used as the medium.
  • Antenna must cover all the frequencies used globally for 4G transmission – as must the router.

On top of quality of service, many superyacht owners have aesthetic concerns. No-one wants their beautiful superyacht marred by an ugly antenna poking out at the top.

Getting your router and antenna right can mean the difference between having 4G reception in the bay and having to moor in the harbour. It is often best to seek out advice on the products before you purchase, saving time and money and ensuring a reliable service and happy owner.


Good 4G can be easy

If you can get all this right, you can experience high speed data anywhere in the world with a 4G network, without having to change your SIM card and switch between different devices. In today’s booming 4G market, there is a package to suit pretty much anything. Multiple SIMs can be provided to an individual yacht with a pool of up to 2TB of roaming data.

Equipment can also be installed to monitor your on board internet use, bandwidth, and 4G network, which helps avoid unexpected bills. High speed internet always comes at a cost, but platform updates can use up a lot of data if they are not monitored. This equipment can be configured to send automatic email notifications at pre-determined volume increments.


Additional Network considerations

On top of the standard considerations, the metal structure of the yacht itself means that coverage inside a vessel can be poor. This means that if you have a lot of guests on board using their own devices to reach shore-based networks, you will need a cellular repeater. This technology makes it possible to maintain connection to the shore via a repeater base station. The base stations connect to the local cell network and rebroadcast around the vessel through discrete indoor antennas.

This allows your guests to stay connected whilst reducing the impact to your on board telecom and data services. However, knowing which repeater is the best for your yacht means thinking about hardware, installation and operational itinerary.


4G Mobile Device Management

On a superyacht, crew often bring their own devices into the work environment (BYOD), and need to be able to access all the necessary applications and accounts set up securely and efficiently. However, BYOD brings with it a host of potential privacy and security issues. So, it is ideal to be able to deploy, configure, manage, support and secure mobile devices remotely. How to achieve this?

Mobile Device Management (MDM) is the technology that market-leading maritime communications provider OceanWeb uses to do this. This software provides over-the-air configuration of email, apps and Wi-Fi, remote troubleshooting, and remote lock and wipe capabilities to secure the device and the enterprise data on it. If lost, equipment can also be tracked down or all private data can be remotely erased.


Keeping up with the tech

Achieving the perfect 4G network is more complicated than most people think. It is almost impossible to do without professional advice. With 20 years’ experience of keeping people connected at sea, OceanWeb has the expertise to advise on a complete and integrated system covering all aspects of connectivity on yachts. In 2017, you should never have to suffer bad connection, no matter where in the world you are sailing.