5MileWiFi, first impressions & a conundrum

5Mile_WiFi_cPanbo 

So I’ve been testing two marine WiFi systems. First up is newcomer 5MileWiFi, pictured above. Its heart is in that little machined aluminum case which delivers Internet to your PC via that main USB cable, also used to get some of the power needed to run what’s claimed to be a 1,000 mW WiFi transceiver. The side mounted USB cable is just for added power and can go to your PC or any other USB power source. The $399 package also includes 25’ of LMR240 coax and a 38” high 9 dbi omni-directional marine WiFi antenna.

Finally, there’s a CD with drivers for most every operating system. Everything went together easily and, by golly, the tiny box pulled in a heck of lot more signals than the WiFi built into my laptop. In fact, it seemed to have about as much range as the Port Networks MWB 250 system I tried alongside it (which is more expensive, but for good reasons I’ll discuss soon). However, I did encounter a conundrum.
   Both WiFi systems acted like pretty normal high-power WiFi systems in my lab and about a block away. That is, they saw lots of access points (APs), some open and some secured, and when I tried to access the unsecured ones, some got me onto the Internet and some didn’t. That’s the life of a WiFi mooch! But down on the edge of Camden Harbor, things were different. I could see lots of APs—as seen in the Network Stumbler screen below, bigger here—but I could not get the Internet on a single one. Rumor has it that the local commercial provider, Abacus Technology (three APs in sight), is using gear that somehow prevents other APs from completing a connection. I don’t understand how that could work (anyone?), but will just note how frustrating it would be to see so many potential hot spots and not be able to get online. I’ve never experienced quite that situation before, but certainly understand why many cruisers have turned to cellular data plans (even if it’s rarely as fast as WiFi).
   At any rate, I do think the 5MileWiFi system pretty much lives up to its claims, except I dare say the “5 miles” is very rare and I’m a bit dubious about the claimed power. For one thing, Port Network’s MWB 250 only claims 500 mW and got all the APs 5Mile did (and better thru-put), and for another it looks like another company is selling the same transceiver but calling it 2,000 mW, and 4,000 combined with a dinky antenna. As I also saw with RadioLab’s WaveRV, there seems to be a variety of ways to rate WiFi power.

5Mile_WiFi_Camden_Harbor_cPanbo

 



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Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now excited to have Ben Stein as very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Panbo is going to the next level in 2019 and beyond.

43 Responses

  1. John Stone says:

    I have found 802.11b(g) way too fickle for marina applications. It’s an exercise in frustration for me and my marina patrons. Fortunately, one of our local service providers installed a WIMAX network and the service is as good as a cable modem. Unforuntately, it is not as portable as 802.11b(g) but I hear the WIMAX people are working on incorporating WIMAX radios into laptops. Maybe you can do a story on WIMAX. Thanks for your great weblog.

  2. norse says:

    It might just be a problem of too much range, since there are more stations than channels, especially non-overlapping channels. See
    http://www.wifiyacht.net/wifi-adjacent-myth.html

  3. Phil Koken says:

    We have been using our EOC-3220 for over a year of cruising now and it has been flawless. We have it mounted at the top of our mast, approximately 80 feet up. While I can’t say that we have maintained a 5 mile connection… I can say we connected to hotel in Mexico that was 3 miles away. We used that connection for almost 2 weeks solid with great results. We recently purchased a new 8db antenna and a lightning arrested but haven’t installed them aloft yet. The EOC-3220 makes the “Best Buy” list of things we picked up before we left the USA.
    Posted via the 3220 in El Salvador 🙂

  4. Dave Green says:

    As far as Abacus Technology blocking access, the only way I’m aware of (and I’m in the business), is to restrict connections based on MAC address’ or install a proprietary connection profile. If they require the customer to install any proprietary software on their PC prior to connecting this could be the culprit.

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I think Phil is referring to the Engenius outdoor WiFi bridge that Aaron Lynch turned us on to last year:
    http://tinyurl.com/yvthck
    Phil, you have the whole unit, with the little omni antenna, on you masthead? Does it look strange? Was it hard to mount?
    Dave, Abacus has a normal browser capture screen to sign on new customers, though I couldn’t get that to work either the other day. I always expect some open WiFi connections to be dead ends, but aside from Abacus I tried the 7 strongest open signals listed on that NetStumbler screen and couldn’t get an IP address from any.

  6. Russ Cooper says:

    Your inability to get an Internet connection could be as simple as our old friend DHCP. If the AP’s are configured to offer up only enough IP addresses to satisfy the customer’s requirement, bingo, no open IP address for you to connect to. DHCP can also restrict based on your MAC address. There are also AP configurations that employ other mechanisms (RADIUS, for example) to do additional authorization prior to opening you to their gateway (usually you have to get to a web page and enter a username and password.) Local patrons might be told these details when they inquire about access. If I operated a WAP I’d sure want to make sure I knew who was consuming my available bandwidth.
    But there’s other technology, such as that offered as SiteMinder, which requires you to authenticate at a specific page prior to letting your computer see devices on that network. If you don’t know the exact URL to offer that authentication, you won’t see any servers on that network.
    But Ben, in the end, I have to ask you this…are you really sure you want to be connecting to any old network you can find? How do you know what it’s doing, either to your computer or to the data you’re receiving through it? Hotspots may seem like a wonderful thing, but if you’re not using a VPN to connect to a safe network you know (like your own home network,) and then surfing from there…you’re really just hoping nothing goes awry.
    Finally, do consider the legality of what you’re doing. See the link I provided about a Michigan man fined for using a cafe’s WiFi…he didn’t buy a coffee and his access was then considered fraudulent access to a computer network.
    FWIW, my SSID is “ConnectingHereIsIllegal”…;-]
    Cheers,
    Russ

  7. Microship says:

    I’ve been carrying around my own hotspot in the form of an EVDO card and a matching router, so we just open our laptops aboard and have a connection. Got stung the other day, though – sailed into Reid Harbor on Stuart Island and the gadget apparently connected to a Canadian tower even though we are in the San Juans. No knobs to twiddle in that department. Now we’re trying to get through to Sprint customer service (a challenge) to make sure we don’t get charged for 6749 units of “Vision Data Roaming” that have suddenly appeared on my account page.
    As to the “too many hotspots” problem, that is real. I use a Wi-Spy 2.4x USB spectrum analyzer along with a yagi antenna to see what’s out there, and it can be quite a jumble from the perspective of an anchorage… most routers are left at the channel and configuration defaults. I’ve also noticed that most folks with APs in such places have secured them or disabled SSID broadcast (I have done that on my boat also, for all sorts of good reasons including the new 5GB/month cap on Sprint “unlimited” service), so the opportunistic open-hotspot heyday seems to be fading.
    Getting better range to the free ones that are intended to be open, however, is definitely worth the effort.
    Cheers,
    Steve
    currently afloat at: http://map.findu.com/n4rve

  8. Dan (b393capt) says:

    I have been using the Verizon EvDO card with very good results, as long as I could except disconnects in whatever I was working on. I ordered the card with my new Dell laptop computer.
    In addition to using it in my home waters of Long Island Sound, I have also used this product for two weeks straight as I visited harbors along the coast to Rhode Island on vacation this July.
    In each harbor I experienced good results using the product. I could surf, use email, and move upload & download 10MB powerpoint presentations at acceptable speeds. I didn’t attempt to use skype or anything that needed a continuous connection, except for some weather software I was evaluating.
    The weather software worked best when the connection wasn’t broken, e.g. if I had to reconnect I needed to wait 45 minutes or more for enough information to be collected to make the software fully functional, for example being able to show me 30 minutes of doppler information.
    Some Gripes:
    – If my laptop goes to sleep (e.g. someone closes the cover) while the connection was enabled, the software would later reconnect but the connection would not be recognized by IE and other software. Solution … always disconnect verizon client manually when not using computer.
    – Rain dramatically reduced speed, and would often result in disconnects.
    – If I used the software while underway, it generally worked well except in rain, where it would disconnect very frequently making the weather software near useless.
    Rather than subscribe to a 2-year plan (when I sail 5 months a year) I used the option where I pay Verizon $15 a day. A downside is that the setup process requires me to enter my credit card information each time, and wait 10 minutes to use the link. Especially when I just want to use the PC a short time, I often try to use WiFi first before I go thru the credit card activation process with Verizon EvDO. Nearly everwhere I go I have been dissapointed with the wi-fi service that is free as it often disconnects after a few minutes or the signal changes from good to poor even though the PC has not moved (e.g. boat at dock). There has been some exceptions like the generally good experience I have with “Beacon WiFi” in many marina’s around here, but without a doubt the EvDO has turned out to be more widely available and faster, requires no wiring or external antenna that prevents me from moving the laptop wirelessly around the boat … or letting my daughter take it away to message her friends.

  9. Dan (b393capt) says:

    .. and if I bought the monthly plan (which does not need 10 min to activate) .. I wouldn’t see any benefit in Wi-Fi.

  10. Microship says:

    Dan…
    $15/day??? Yikes. That’s $450/month vs $60/month for the Sprint EVDO. Did I read that right?
    Other than the Canadian roaming glitch, I have been extremely happy with the Sprint. Fast (DSL-ish) and easy…
    Steve

  11. Dan (b393capt) says:

    Steve,
    No, not that much at all.
    Since I have a blackberry, I have very little need to connect to the internet from my boat.
    Outside of my 2-week vacation on the boat, I hardly use the laptop once a week, so it’s cheaper for me to pay by the day, especially when my boat is out of the water 6 months a year. When the laptop is at home, I let it connect to my home’s wi-fi network.

  12. Phil Koken says:

    Yes, the whole Bridge/Router is at the top of the mast. Yes, we are using the little “Rubber Duck” antenna until I get off my but and go up and mount the collinear antenna and lightning arrestor.
    As for it looking strange… the box is smaller than the mast profile, and not too far from the same color. Looking at the top of the mast from the deck or the ground you don’t really notice it unless you really scrutinize things. We had a lot more comments on it when it was mounted above our radar on the stern (and only 13′ above the water)

  13. DaveV says:

    About the 500mW Vs 1000, 2000, 4000mW etc. That part cracks me up. First of all 1000mW = 1Watt so don’t be too impressed. Going from 0.5Watt (500milliWatts) to 1Watt is a 3 dB change, but it takes 6 dB change in power (at least) to double connection range. So 0.5W to 2W is 6 dB
    Next – that transmitter power level only applies to your UPLINK – or outgoing connection range and has NOTHING to do with your reception or download data range.
    Reception range is governed by receiver Noise Figure – and that is set by placing a low noise preamplifier (Called an LNA) AT the antenna. If you place an LNA 30 – 40 ft from the antenna – all of that coax loss raises the noise figure of the system and the LNA amplifies NOISE. Even the old TV antennas have the Amplifier placed at the antenna with a remote power supply and gain adjustment. So any unit that has the antenna integrated with the LNA / Power Amplifier will typically be better.
    Lastly – Digital Communications require very highly phase and amplitude linear amplifiers – both the PA and the LNA. Adding power to a lousy non-linear amp will not result in better through put in either direction.
    So – sticking to well made units from Verizon etc may be the best bet.

  14. Russ says:

    The “5 mile” concept is absurd when applied to RF. Perhaps this means both points outside with no obstructions between them, clear weather and no sun spot activity. Not exactly the real world.
    Real APs are inside buildings, many of which are clad in various forms of foil insulation which also interfere with signals.
    I’ve been using the reconstituted Syrens / Radio-at-Sea bridge. The antenna is on my first spreader about 30′ off the water. It’s working well, or at least much better than the built in WiFi on my laptop. I also had good luck with the Engenius unit which is certainly cheaper. The advantage of the Syrens unit is the built in AP so the three computers on the boat always access the same point after one of them accesses the web based s/w in the Syrens unit to select an AP (either mooching or subscribing).

  15. Phil Koken says:

    We are also using a second AP within Samadhi V for our “Local Wifi”. So, the EOC-3220 acts as our long distance bridge which in turn feeds an AP inside the boat to connect whatever # of local machines we need.
    As for the 5 mile concept being absurd… I used to engineer early wifi systems (Lucent Wavelan) and we setup connections over 22 miles (using the appropriate antennas).

  16. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Via e-mail:
    We have been running an Engenius 3220-EXT aboard for over a year with fantastic results. Engenius recently introduced a more powerful (600mw) bridge designated the EOC-3610S. I suggested (based on our experiences with Engenius) that a friend buy a 3610 instead of a 3220 for his boat. Unfortunately we have come to discover that the EOC-3610S runs COMPLETELY different firmware than the 3220. IMHO I would not recommend the 3610S, it is NOT user friendly, and has many fewer features than the EOC-3220. I spoke with the Engenius about the differences and they said that the product will be improved “Next Year” but wouldn’t comment on what features were going to be added.
    IMHO Stay away from the 3610S, it just isn’t ready for prime time — I feel like this is a beta release product at best, and the lack of features is appalling in light of Engenius’s spec sheets showing identical capabilities with the 3220.

  17. In interest of full disclosure, I work for Port Networks and did much of the design work on the new (Version 6) MWB-200 and MWB-250.
    First, a point of clarification. The MWB-250 is a 400mW radio. The previous version used a 500mW radio and marketing missed the change in the update of the product description. This has been updated on our website as of this morning.
    A couple general notes about Wi-Fi connections.
    1) You can see an AP in the sight survey but can’t connect to it.
    a) They could be using MAC auth and only letting known devices connect.
    b) You can “hear” the other radio but the other radio can’t “hear” you.
    c) The ACK timeout on your radio is set too short for the distance you are trying to transmit at. That is to say that your client device does not wait long enough for an acknowledgment that the packet has been received. One of the things we have done with the MWB series is to set this automatically based on local conditions.
    d) The ACK timeout on the AP is set too short for the distance you are trying to transmit at. Not much we can do here but if it is a commercial provider they most likely know this and have pushed their ACK timeout up.
    e) Beacons from the AP are being sent at a lower modulation rate but the client or AP are trying to send data at a higher modulation rate and their is too much noise in the environment. One thing you can do is to set your client device to B only which will force the AP you are talking to too use B modulation rates.
    2) As to the rumors about the local provider using gear to “block” connections to other equipment:
    This is technically possible and quite likely illegal. It would be done by spoofing de-auth requests from the client when in fact the client had sent no such request. I find it hard to believe that any commercial provider would do such a thing but it is possible. It is more likely that they are using access points with a shorter contention window. That is to say that they don’t listen as long for other users on the medium before talking. The most likely case is that it is just a high noise environment and they are just using better antennas and radios.
    3) Adding amps.
    As DaveV pointed out, Adding an LNA to amplify the receive signal will also amplify the noise. In a low noise environment, this will help but we are quickly running out of low noise environments in the 2.4GHz space. From our work with the old version of the MWB-250 which had an LNA built into the radio, I found that there were few places where this actually helped performance although, it would show many more networks with the LNA turned on.
    Adding an AMP to amplify your rf output will only help in situations where the other end of the link can’t hear you.
    To be frank, I have almost never seen an amp help when added to a client device. The only time I feel one is appropriate is when it is installed at the top of a long coax run in order to overcome cable loss.

  18. Peter R says:

    I purchased a USB WiFi client for $37.95 from Jefatech. It allows an external antenna to be mounted directly to the device (no coax or coax loss). I chose a 8dB antenna that screws onto the connection directly (they are pretty common since Linksys uses this connector) I purchased a 8′ USB extension cable and connected it to the Jefatech WiFi client. I then built a PVC pipe for this all to fit into. Make sure you tape or shrink wrap the connectors (you don’t want them to come loose once you glue the PVC together (Note – make sure you don’t tape or wrap over any vents or other cooling holes). You can even find PVC rail mounts that screw onto a threaded PVC connector (I found a PVC one at Lowes) The whole thing costs less than $50-60 and works great.
    (One final note – you need to stay with the 7-8dB gain antenna. The higher gain ones tend to have too narrow of a beam width; e.g., you will see the access point come and go when the boat moves around.
    Jefatech link: http://tinyurl.com/4aolou

  19. Peter R says:

    one additional advantage of my home made system above. The Jefa tech software allows you to make the radio act as a client or an access point. You can use your built in client to get on a system and then use your Jefa tech device to act as an access point. You can then share your internet connection with other people on the boat. Please only do this with your crew and put encryption on your access point. Don’t share it with everyone else in the harbor and undercut the AP provider (if they require you to pay).

  20. rxc says:

    I installed a 3220 unit on my boat in FLorida last winter, and used it to surf throughout Florida, in the Bahamas, and then in Bermuda and the Azores during a transatlantic trip. It was amazingly useful, and we made great use of open access points, but we also purchased access in other locations, if we needed it. Like others, we also have an internal router/WiFi access point from Vonage that also has a phone connection. When we have a good WiFi connection, we also have a phone connection. Vonage also has an application (in beta) that lets you use their services from a PC, without a real phone, too.
    The range of the 3220 was great, although it was somewhat sensitive to boat motion, especially in Bermuda and the Azores. At one point in Horta, we shifted from being the outboard boat to being inside a raft on the wall, and our reception suffered a bit.
    Overall, the 3220 and the Vonage router have been absolutely worth their cost. We are looking forward to seeing how well they work here in France.

  21. Chris Labatt says:

    I’m looking at installing an EOC-3220 on my boat. I’d like to just mount the antenna on the mast and keep the remainder of the unit on the inside of our boat. I’ll run low-loss coax up the mast to support this. From a power perspective, how do people power the device? I see it comes with a 48V AC/DC adapter. I’d like to run it off the 12VDC side of my house. Any suggestions? Would something like this: http://www.tessco.com/products/displayProductInfo.do?sku=351891&eventPage=1 work?

  22. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Chris, I recommend taking a close look at the Port Networks MBW 250 I linked to above, which can be had exactly the way you want. You can get it with 12v POE power and LMF 400 low loss Coax to the antenna. I haven’t written about it yet, but it’s really well made and works great.

  23. ibsailn says:

    Chris, I just installed a MWB-250 on a client boat and have one for myself on order. I ended up purchasing through Alan Spicer as he was quite helpful and is providing a service contract for the client boat as I am not always available for support. The MWB-250 was designed for a longer cable run unlike the EOC units that everyone suggests you don’t use longer than a short pigtail with. The downside of the MWB-250 is price. If you source all your bulk cabling, connectors, antenna and can borrow a crimp tool for the install you are still going to spend $700 bare minimum where you could probably do the EOC system with antenna for $250 or so. If you do insist on using the EOC unit, use LMR-400UF cable (LMR-400 with a stranded core for greater flexibility which ends up being VERY similar to the much more expensive RG-8U — same construction, same size, same ratings). When I asked a tech at Engenius about doing this with LMR-400 he suggested against it, but it would be your best bet if you don’t want to spend the money on the Port Networks system.
    A great source for this stuff is Hyperlink technologies down in Florida. As far as powering the EOC unit, you should be able to set up a Power over Ethernet (POE) system which sends the power (48V) over the unused brown and brown/white pair of the ethernet cable. The EOC-2330 is compable with the 802.3af Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) so you can use any off the shelf POE injector. Port Networks uses the Shireen 12V POE injector with a lightening arrestor built in. This does mean that a reasonable option is to run ethernet cable up your mast, and mount the EOC-3220 and an antenna at the mast head. This apparently works quite well, but does have a visual downside. E-mail me (listed on blog below) if you have more questions.
    Thanks,
    Gram Schweikert

  24. sidm3 says:

    Hi, This is Sid from golden shellback. I thought this was a pretty interesting article. I was curious about the topic as we’re looking for the technology for our tallship. How do you think the aluminum case will hold up?

  25. Quote…
    As far as Abacus Technology blocking access, the only way I’m aware of (and I’m in the business), is to restrict connections based on MAC address’ or install a proprietary connection profile. If they require the customer to install any proprietary software on their PC prior to connecting this could be the culprit.
    Posted by: Dave Green at September 11, 2008 9:47 AM
    /Quote
    I think what he was referring to was THEM blocking OTHER access points (service providers private or public) from providing service. That might not be legal in the WiFi unlicensed bands.
    The could be basically knocking everyone else out (someone quoted my wifiyacht.net article) within their coverage area … and they could do that using on 3 access points. The reason they could do that goes back to that article on non-adjacent channels. In a area you can only really use channels 1, 6, and 11 – where the signals overlap each other. Which means that only channels 1, 6 and 11 can co-exist in a coverage area where the signals might overlap (or “see” each other.) And if they were doing that, using channels 1, 6, and 11 – and you were in range of all three of them (which you would be with a good boat external wifi antenna and system) then basically those channels AND ALL OTHERS would pretty much be wiped out for you. That could very well give the results described in this article.

  26. Quote…
    Your inability to get an Internet connection could be as simple as our old friend DHCP. If the AP’s are configured to offer up only enough IP addresses to satisfy the customer’s requirement, bingo, no open IP address for you to connect to. DHCP can also restrict based on your MAC address. There are also AP configurations that employ other mechanisms (RADIUS, for example) to do additional authorization prior to opening you to their gateway (usually you have to get to a web page and enter a username and password.) Local patrons might be told these details when they inquire about access. If I operated a WAP I’d sure want to make sure I knew who was consuming my available bandwidth.
    …/Quote
    Yah… but he’s only connecting with one client device and only requesting one ip address (either using the 5Mile thing or the Port Networks) so it wouldn’t be the old friend 1 IP per connection.
    And a public AP that has a sign-on page wouldn’t be restricting by MAC addresses (although they might block a few local KNOWN bad MAC addresses.) For those one’s with a sign-on page – he would get associated with the access point, get at least a temporary ip address, and be able to hit up the sign-on page with the same computer … and usually he would be able to share that connection just fine with MWB-250 or via Windows ICS with the 5Mile device.
    He would get redirected to the sign-on page in his web browser regardless of what web page he requested. This is sort of a “Walled Garden” approach – which means he can get connected but only go to the local network (the sign-on page) until he gets authenticated successfully. In fact all URL requests are redirected to the sign-on page.
    The MAC address of other computers onboard would never be seen by the WiFi Hotspot AP – in typical NAT (connection sharing) environment. The only MAC address seen is of the connecting client wifi device. Be it the Port Networks or the other 5Mile device.
    Quote…
    But Ben, in the end, I have to ask you this…are you really sure you want to be connecting to any old network you can find? How do you know what it’s doing, either to your computer or to the data you’re receiving through it? Hotspots may seem like a wonderful thing, but if you’re not using a VPN to connect to a safe network you know (like your own home network,) and then surfing from there…you’re really just hoping nothing goes awry.
    …/Quote
    Those words are normally only used by IT guys and salesmen selling VPN Solutions. Yah we all know that an unsecure public hotspot is just that unsecure. When you do your banking you go to https secure web sites anyway. And the odds of someone actually sniffing your traffic is probably like the lottery odds in Florida. There’s nooone on there sniffing his traffic. But if he’s really doing business on there (and he wasn’t, he was just testing.) he should consider a VPN. He should do that no matter how he connects to the Internet, not just when he’s on WiFI hotspots.
    But anyway you went on and on about using other peoples access points illegally… and there was SOME points to that. Generally I recommend yachts stick to actual Public WiFi Hotspots provided by Marinas or Hotels and such. It is tempting to connect to the easiest fool running a Linksys wide open with no WEP, WPA, or WPA2 security on it, but that’s not a good idea. If it’s a home or apartment in or near a marina – several boats or crews with laptops will already be hitting it – and sapping up it’s miniscule Internet connection. Maybe the homeowner will notice, maybe they will not. I doubt they will monitor your traffic (unless its me 😉 ) I might monitor someones traffic that connects to me. Just for fun. So stick to the real public hotspots and leave the toy linksys’s alone.

  27. …Quote
    I have found 802.11b(g) way too fickle for marina applications. It’s an exercise in frustration for me and my marina patrons. Fortunately, one of our local service providers installed a WIMAX network and the service is as good as a cable modem. Unforuntately, it is not as portable as 802.11b(g) but I hear the WIMAX people are working on incorporating WIMAX radios into laptops. Maybe you can do a story on WIMAX.
    …/Quote
    Yah, I’ve found most automobiles too fickle for driving applications. But Hummers and Caddilacs are outside of the budjet.
    WiFi is free in a lot of marinas or reasonably cheap especially if shared to everyone on a boat.
    WiMax just isn’t happening in any (many?) locations and I doubt it will be free. It’s also competing with 3G Cellular Internet. Might as well get that and double team it with a WiFi setup.
    Not sure what happened in your marina with Wifi, but I’m sorry to hear about it.

  28. Neil Bingham says:

    The 5milewifi unit sounded like an answer to my dreams being able to reach those stations that are always just on the edge of connection.
    The 5milewifi unit I purchased is either faulty or doesn’t perform, the internal card on my laptop draws in more signals. When I asked 5milewifi for a solution after many emails they suggested it may be faulty, OK I said send a replacement, NO they said send the original back, and we will repair or replace if we deem it to be faulty. OK I said who pays for the shipping YOU DO they said.
    All in all there is no support if it doesn’t work throw it away it will be cheaper. My unit cost $399 US plus $188.60 shipping plus € 165 import taxes into Europe. They won’t refund the shipping charges if I send it back and I’ll probably end up paying import duty again on a new unit.
    Their support is not helpful and they seem to feel thet can send out product that is faulty and expect the customer to pay !!

  29. JonM says:

    A fairly low cost, but high performance, way to go is a USB adapter with a high gain antenna if you have only one PC that needs an Internet connection. I got my parts from http://www.wifi-link.com which has UK and Germany outlets for Neil.
    I have their standard USB adapter, but I see that they now have a high power model (both are out of stock in the US). To this, I added a 5m USB cable, a short RF cable, a 10 dbi panel antenna, and some RAM Mount parts so that the antenna can be positioned. With the assembly on my below deck mast support I have been able to pick up signals across a harbor. I also have an 18 dbi panel antenna, but have not needed it recently.
    Jon

  30. ibsailn says:

    I finally got around to finishing and writing up the MWB-250 system onboard Visions.
    See http://vofj.blogspot.com/2008/12/new-wifi-and-computer-system-update.html (or clink name below) to learn more.
    Not a cheap system, but very clean to install and seems quite good.

  31. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Gram; that’s an excellent write up. I too am impressed with the build quality and performance of the MWB-250.
    A few weeks ago I tried it, along with an MWB-200 and the 5Mile, near the breakwater in Rockland, hoping to simulate the experience of an anchored-out boat. The 250, per usual, detected more APs at stronger signal strengths than the other two. But, like Camden Harbor, I didn’t have much luck actually getting on or staying on the available networks. The local Wireless ISP, RedZone, told me that the problem in both harbors is the channel hopping technology used by another ISP to provide high power point-to-point connections to local businesses. I’m not sure said local ISP agrees!
    At any rate, the founder/CTO of RedZone suggested we drive up to MDI and try a lot of gear there, which I hope to do eventually.
    PS Panbots may also enjoy reading about your geek weekend on Volare:
    http://vofj.blogspot.com/2008/10/weekend-electronics-install.html

  32. Bill Lentz says:

    I purchased the 5 mile WiFi set up to test it after reading about it in a well known magazine. Well mine failed right out of the box. I have 2 test APs in my office and a 3rd at the house next property over. It would only pick up the GeoSatSolutions high power AP at the office running into a 10db attenuator and 15db omni. I put it back in the tube and forgot about it. Well last week 2/17/09 I e-mail tech support and after I proved to them I purchased it directly from them they gave me an RMA. It turns out the receive side of the amplifier was defective. However I learned from the manufacture that you must disable all Wireless on your laptop or the unit can get RF feedback and the amplifier can destroy itself. Well that wasn’t the case because I had loaded the software and unit on my desktop that has no built in WiFi. It took about a week but once I received the product back with the explination the 1st device in the receive preamp was bad I hooked it up in my office. I picked up 8 APs and non were WEP enabled so I was able to connect to all with great success. So they did stand behind the product. I won’t be able to test it on the water until April when we launch the boat. My unit is the new “all in one” and they claim the 2 watt amplifier is the amp in the omni. This doesn’t make much sense because it could exceed FCC limits.
    More to follow. Bill Lentz

  33. JonM says:

    I just ordered a Ubiquiti Bullet:
    http://www.ubnt.com/products/bullet.php
    It is weatherproof, attaches directly to
    the antenna and gets power over Ethernet.
    There is a high power version, but I bought
    regular version. I will use it with a 10 dbi
    panel antenna that will usually be mounted
    in the cabin at the top of the mast support.
    That position worked well for me with a normal
    power USB adapter.

  34. Billlentz says:

    I had a 3220 Enginius just updated with software from GeoSatSolutions now it is as easy to use as any Syrens unit. You have to pay a license fee but it is well worth it.
    Bill

  35. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    That’s interesting, Bill. What did it cost and does it work with all Engenius WiFi hardware?

  36. Bill Lentz says:

    Only the 3220 it will not work on the 8610. You need to contact Richard in service at GeoSat- Solutions. I am not sure they are doing this for the general public. The software license fee is $50.00 It definately will not work with the 8610 600mw Engenious unit. I am not familiar with Ben’s rules on this board so I don’t want to say more without talking with Ben.
    Take care. Bill

  37. Bill Lentz says:

    Ben sorry I didn’t realize it was you asking the question again contact Richard in tech services tell him I told you to call. It does make the operation identical to their other units in other words a snap. After the firmware is installed you get to it by 192.168.89.1 and you will get the normal scan page. Good luck on the new Trawler very nice. Bill

  38. Bill Lentz says:

    Well I have to jump back in. I gave my 5 mile WiFi all in one unit to a friend in Long Island. He forgot to turn off the internal WiFi card on his laptop and he gets no reception with it. To me this is a design flaw they need to address. As far as the Enginus 3220 running on GeoSatSolutions firmware and using their software this same friend now has reliable WiFi service. I’m glad I sent him 3 units to play with, The 5 mile WiFi, Syren Lite (old original unit) and the Enginus 3220 with GeoSatsSolutions firmware and software. Me I am very happy with my AP/HP/RP 3′ of LMR400 to the box. The box is fed with 12 volts and is under my hardtop a CAT5E connects the unit directly to a switch then a multi CAT5 wall plate and plates. I can also access it through the small 200mw card/R/TNC rubber ducky. I usually disable this. As far as range with the HotSpot HP GeoSatSolutions (at my marina) into a 120 degree sector antenna I can easily do 5 miles over water in fact quite a bit more with respectable speeds. My trick in keeping the noise and interference to a minimum is to disable any WiFi rebroadcast from my Ericsson W-25, Uniden 625 radio, KVH TracNet on Verizon (really a Kyrocera Modem) and use a Sprint modem that Shakespeare sells the CN1100 which has no WiFi re-broadcast. I simply have a 4 position wall plate that I plug and un plug depending on who’s service I want. A 2nd computer (my wife’s) uses one of the un-used ports normally the Sprint EVDO CN1100. I don’t seem to see any major degredation when running the microwave but the hardtop has a copper counterpoise built into it. The WiFi antenna for the GeoSatSolutions AP/HP is above it. When enabled the low power repeater in the unit is below the counterpoise or shielded hardtop. I have had great success using WiFi and the land based cellular systems, but I would not want to depend on only one.
    Bill

  39. JonM says:

    I see that I did not provide an update on the Ubiquiti Bullet. It works well. I normally have it mounted below deck, on the mast support, with a 10 dbi panel antenna. With a 6 dbi omni mounted on the stern rail I get a usable connection 3 nmi offshore.
    I have the high power version (Bullet2HP) on order, but there seems to be a supply problem.
    The current network configuration has the Bullet feeding the WAN port of a Buffalo router running dd-wrt which supplies the boat’s wired and wireless network.
    Jon

  40. Larry says:

    Wifi here is a Cradlepoint CTR350 with your favorite USB cellular aircard plugged into it running off 4.8VDC from 4 NiMh, 11A D cells in series. It will run 24/7 for about 3 days before recharging. Any 5VDC 2A supply will power it.
    Haul it up a 60′ mast in a heavy ziplock and it will connect to cellular about 10 miles farther than your cellphone on deck, giving you wifi in any anchorage your cellphone works in. It supports 16 simultaneous devices on its LAN so your Skype phones, computer, wifi music toys all share the bandwidth simultaneously.
    $99 + the aircard fees at any Best Buy. Don’t tell the snobs on the dock you didn’t buy it from the most expensive chandler in town, though.

  41. Bill Lentz says:

    WiMax 802.16G or mobile has it is speed limit 72 mph. Now this won’t effect boats. However working with various providers to supply it to existing Marina 802.11B&G networks is in process. More to follow soon. The real treat will be 700Mhz LTE. It is not rumor Verizon has already pulled the trigger and is internally testing 30 markets. 2.4960 to 2.7Ghz WiMax had better partner up with existing rural and semi-rural WiFi providers or their days are numbered. Currently there is only 1 WiMax modem available in the US the Novatel U300. It has many flaws and the U301 is Sprint/Clearwire’s only hope for a better launch. I have tested 3 cities and they are not yet using all the spectrum average download speeds are 8mbps to 6mbps upload using TDD/MIMO. Clearwire/Sprint already have problems because the WiMax sites were set up with the model of a typical user using 7gb per month, their average users are using 14-17g per month! The current modem must be forced by the customer between their EVDO service and 4G. There is also no site handoff going on in WiMax. The new modem is rumored to fix this problem.
    In the mean time under the UMTS umbrella T Mobile has developed a 23mbps white lab version that is rumored to launch in the next 6 months. AT&T is still working on getting their UMTS optimized average speeds that I have tested are 2mbps downloab and 800kbps upload that is using either a Ericsson W25 or W35.
    Bill Lentz

  42. I am VERY impressed with our Port Networks 250 system sold by Alan Spicer. We are currently in the Galapagos and picked up the citywide free wifi 9 miles from town and over 2.5 miles from the uninhabited shoreline. I can still see that same hotspot (by mac address) 9 miles from where I picked it up and used it while sailing down the coast, so I know I have gotten at least 4.5 miles of usable range.
    More about this and other South American Wifi Coverage on my blog: Cruising with Wifi

  43. Bill Lentz says:

    A quick update on WiMAX the new standard 802.16E is now in operation in about 16 markets it is mobile and will hand-off. The good news is the government has just funded WiMAX for rural VA and North Carolina where there is currently almost no cellular service. I’ll update as coastal cities come on line. This is the perfect pipeline to the internet for WiFi marina providers. I still think we are about 2 years out from any meaningful improvements on the East coast. Washington State has WiMAX on the Ferries connected to WiFi onboard for distribution.
    700LTE (Long Term Evelution)is rumored to launch in 2010 I just have no idea where. It’s no secret 700MHz will go a whole lot further than 2.5-2.7GHz WiMAX. There is still hope for fast inexpensive pipelines for WiFi AP’s running on slow DSL circuits. Also possibly cards for AP/routers like the CradlePoint and Kyrocera. Rumor has it one of the big marine WiFi equipment providers is working on a dual/version either WiMAX/WiFi and eventually 700MHz LTE/WiFi versions. Eventually this will be great for cruisers near the coast imagine 3-10mbps downloads and 3mbps upload speeds? I can personally attest a Skype stand alone handset through a WiFi AP fed by a 4G WiMAX router works with a good QOS.
    Bill Lentz

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