Internet for your Boat 101: Top 5 Questions to Ask When Considering Onboard Connectivity

KVH delivers onboard connectivity via VSAT and LTE (image courtesy Hinkley Yachts)

With ongoing restrictions in place from the pandemic, it’s no surprise that the leisure boating industry is booming as more people seek to experience the freedom and excitement that being out on the open water can bring. The feeling of leaving the shore behind, along with all of the hassles and regulations that COVID-19 has required, is wonderfully therapeutic for the mind and soul. From long day trips fishing off the coast to overnight explorations with the family, the possibilities to escape life onshore are endless for boating enthusiasts worldwide.  If extended time onboard sounds ever-alluring, but you still need to be available for work calls, take Zoom meetings, or want to stream your favorite shows, it’s time to consider onboard connectivity via satellite and LTE cellular. Luckily, there are affordable, fast solutions and data plans for all boat sizes and needs. However, choosing the best solution can feel overwhelming and may lead you down Google’s rabbit hole.

Figuring Out the Right Onboard Connectivity Solution for You

Save yourself time and energy by answering these five questions. Your answers will help you, together with your local marine electronics retailer, select the Internet solution and data plan that is best for you and your boat.

KVH, onboard connectivity, internet for boats, mini-VSAT Broadband, TracPhone1. Where do you travel and how far offshore do you venture?

It’s important to think about where you venture and how far you plan to take your boat offshore. For example, if you primarily stay within 20 miles from the U.S. coastline, an advanced LTE system that extends U.S. cellular service may be a better solution for you than satellite Internet. But what if you intend to travel beyond 20 miles offshore or cruise from Florida to the Bahamas or the Caribbean? In that case, you’ll be a prime candidate for satellite Internet.

Interested in exploring KVH’s various coverage maps to consider which product may best meet your cruising needs? Click here.

2. How do you want to use the Internet?

Envision how you’d use your onboard connectivity. Will you be working remotely full-time or trading stocks? Or do you intend to use the Internet in a much lighter capacity, maybe sending a few emails throughout the day, casually browsing your social media feeds, and surfing the web, or perhaps you also want to stream content for entertainment? Determine how many people onboard will be using the service regularly and how many devices you intend to connect. Understanding how you will use the Internet onboard can help determine the amount of monthly data you may need and the best system and plan to provide that data.

Curious how much data your favorite applications like Facebook and Zoom use? Click here to see typical data usage and minimum required speeds.

KVH onboard connectivity, data use, internet for boats

3. What type and size boat or yacht do you have?

The type of boat you own and its size matters when selecting an onboard connectivity solution. Communications antennas need to be installed on your boat’s highest available location, free from as much interference as possible so the antenna can always see the satellite and will not be blocked by vessel structures. Center consoles, sailboats, cruisers, and catamarans all have varying spaces to mount an antenna. The antenna system you choose should also align with the size of your boat.

Click here to browse KVH’s full line up of satellite Internet and LTE communications solutions.

4. Do you use your boat year-round?

If you are lucky enough to live in a temperate climate conducive to year-round boating, you’ll want to use the Internet every month of the year. But if you take your boat out of the water before the forecast calls for snow and ice, you’ll want a plan that gives you the flexibility to suspend your service. Likewise, you’ll want to ensure you choose an onboard connectivity provider that can also quickly and affordably reactivate your service once warmer weather approaches and it’s time to launch your boat back into the water.

Explore KVH’s flexible and affordable Airtime Plans here.

5. How important is reliability to you?

KVH, onboard connectivity, sportfishing, TracPhone, Internet for boatsSuppose you are spending your weekend nights at the crowded marina and looking forward to streaming Netflix on the marina’s Wi-Fi. In that case, you’ll most likely be disappointed by constant buffering from too many boats connected at the same time and would benefit from an LTE solution. Similarly, if you plan to go to a new destination on a Tuesday morning but need to attend a board meeting on Zoom in the afternoon, you might not want to rely on LTE and a satellite Internet solution would be a better candidate for your needs.

Hopefully, these considerations help you define your onboard connectivity needs. Maybe they will spark more questions? Remember, your connectivity needs are unique, and KVH prides itself on its vast network of knowledgeable marine electronics partners that are ready to answer your questions, discuss your requirements, and find the best solution for you and your boat. Find an authorized KVH dealer near you or contact us directly!

You might also be interested in these articles:

KVH’s Layered Satellite Network Enables Fast Response

Sailing to the Horizon with SATCOM that Delivers


About Chris Watson 73 Articles
Chris is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for KVH Industries. A lifelong sailor and storyteller, he's a self-professed geek who finds all of this technical stuff fascinating.