RadioLabs USB Marine WiFi, the one?

WaveRV-marineI’ve never heard of RadioLabs before, but maybe it’s come up with an excellent aid to onboard WiFi reception. The WaveRV Marine is an 22” 8dB omnidirectional 2.4 GHz antenna with a 400 mW WiFi radio built into its base. A 15’ USB cable moves data and power between the WaveRV and a down-below Windows, Mac, or even Linux computer. The unit is waterproof, fits a standard marine antenna mount, and costs $170 plus shipping. The fifteen foot power/data cable might be too short for some boats, but otherwise this looks like a good alternative to Wayne’s Way, etc. Here’s RadioLab’s WaveRV Marine page, and here’s a highly optimistic press release PDF. (Four mile range? I don’t think so.)  By the way, I’m hoping to test this product.

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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.

25 Responses

  1. Jeff says:

    Pretty cool product. I wish the antenna had a little more gain than just 8dB but removing all analog wiring and connectors will help to improve it a lot.
    15 feet isn’t bad for USB. It is pretty easy to extend USB wiring although anything over 15 feet requires a powered cable. They’re not expensive and they are easily available.
    This looks like a pretty good solution.

  2. AdriftAtSea says:

    I’m curious about the 400 mW radio rating, as the legal power limit for the WiFi specification is 200 mW, at least last I checked with the FCC two years ago.
    Also, I would rather have the WiFi circuitry inside the boat, rather than out at the antenna, but I imagine the reason the electronics are inside the antenna base is to reduce the signal loss that would be caused by using a cable between the WiFi transceiver and the antenna.
    I seriously doubt that a 8dB omni is going to give you anywhere near the range they’re saying in the press release. I’ve set up a 1.5 mile link for an 802.11b connection and it was done using two 18 dB gain parabolic grid antennas.

  3. KevinH says:

    I haven’t try this antenna-I’ve tried a few other “marine” wifi antennas.
    I’ve had the best results with a Linksys USB Wireless G antenna, USB extenders, hoisted up my mast. I took a plastic container with lid, put the antenna inside, hung it upside down with the usb cable coming out of a hole I cut in the lid (now on the bottom). I taped it all up with duct tape, fashioned a handle out of duct tape, and I pull it up my mast.

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Got a picture of that rig, Kevin? Sounds like a beaut.

  5. Terry says:

    Note what the spec sheet says — Working Range Outdoor: Up to 1500� (450m)@11Mbps, 3960� (1km) @
    1Mbps
    Doesn’t sound like four miles but it might still be enough of a range extension to be attractive. Let’s see what Ben’s test shows!

  6. Tim says:

    I have one of the original WaveRV antennas for motorhomes and I have connected up to 2 miles with a strong signal strength. Good to see they made a marine version. I think I’ll use the one I have on my boat though instead of buying one more of them for the mounting. I like the fact it is water proof.

  7. Why not put a nice 2-way amplifier, some LRM 400 cable, and a nice 8.5dBi Omni Antenna?
    The FCC limit is not 200mW or 400mW. It is 30dB or 1 watt out of the antenna. Typically it needs to be calculated and planned to accomplish this. Any antenna gain over 6dB must be met with a reduction in power by the amount over 6dB gain in the antenna. Also it’s interesting to figure out how to share a WiFi Connection inside of a yacht to more than 1 laptop and/or other wired computers.

    Alan Spicer
    http://www.marinetelecom.net

  8. Jon says:

    Just got my antenna back from Radio Labs. My WaveRV Marine filled with water after a few months. They repaired it under warranty and spread silicone over the joints to make it “waterproof”. Although it worked ok before it filled with water (just from rain, it was not submerged), I do not think I will buy another product from them.

  9. Jim Berti says:

    I purchased a WaveRV Marine for our sailboat and possibly the best investment I have ever made for an internet product. Working as advertised. I had 1 non-warranty issue because I shut the USB cable in a window and cut the cable. I sent it back and they replaced it at no charge. Very happy with the product and I can anchor offshore and still get a very solid usable signal.

  10. Jon says:

    Well it looks like my “repaired” WaveRV Marine antenna has died again. I had it repared in November and this is April. About the same amount of time from the first try. We are cruising and take very good care of our gear. When we fly back home to the States this summer I guess I will be looking for a different setup.

  11. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Hey Jon, It happens that Panbo reader Bob Mueller pointed me at a new marine WiFi manufacturer this morning, which looks interesting:
    http://www.marineairpoint.com
    I spoke with the developer this afternoon and he got into the business because his cruising parents had gotten frustrated by all the gear they’ve tried. Sounds like I will get to test one of his WiFi “bridges” soon. Also, did you ever see my follow up on WaveRV:
    http://tinyurl.com/2cyz76

  12. oldcatsailor says:

    Just bought the marine wifi antenna for our sailboat; seems to work fine, but won’t connect to an open AP on shore about 500 ft. away! The Realtek utility that came with the antenna shows “connected” with “excellent” signal strength, but all it does is show “acquiring network address”, then just disconnects. My old Hawking 6db directional antenna connects just fine, and the Marine antenna will connect to the “pay-by-the-minute” service here, but not the free one. So far, no reply from support@radiolabs.com…..any ideas out there or help blogs where I might start a chat with some wifi gurus? I had a techie IT guy from another boat come over and he couldn’t figure this out! Thanks.

  13. BillP says:

    An electronics engineer and I tested several units from this company for PMM and all were faulty. Seems they have a problem with quality control,and it might take several tries to get one that works as advertised. All were returned.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Sell it on ebay! I (briefly) had a RadioLabs unit; it performed worse than the built-in card on my laptop. It is truly a piece of junk.

  15. Dan (b393capt) says:

    Hot off the press, I have not had a chance to read this, Ocean Navigator, September 2008 Issue No 172, “Super Wi-Fi antenna” author Harry Hungate describes building his own antenna for $35 using plans obtained on the internet.

  16. Jeremy says:

    I have a WaveRV antenna on my sailboat.After 6 months it filled with water.I cleaned it and resealed it 6 months ago.Now it has failed completely.Their customer service is not the greatest.I wont be buying another antenna from Radio Labs.

  17. djmarchand says:

    I just received a WaveRV Marine antenna/amplifier.
    It doesn’t work any better (or worse) than the wifi card built into my laptop.
    So, it is going back to RadioLabs.
    David

  18. RLS2 says:

    Dear Friends,
    Thank you for the numerous emails about the performance issues with the WaveRV Marine antenna. I was ready to purchase this antenna and have since changed my mind.
    I did purchase a more powerful outdoor USB adapter antenna from http://www.wifisignalking.com. So far so good! I am able to see the marina Wi-Fi AP as well as several others…
    According to the folks at http://www.wifisignalking.com, the outdoor USB adapter puts out 4000mW of power with a receive sensitivity of -100dB. I am happy with my purchase. I will post periodic updates in the future
    RLS2

  19. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, RLS2, but I must say I’m very dubious about that claim of 4,000mW! I’m actually testing what looks like the same radio with a different antenna set up — link below — and it only claims 1,000mW. I’m even dubious of that power, but it does work pretty well. Will write an entry soon, but in the meantime, check out:
    http://www.5milewifi.com/

  20. RLS2 says:

    Ben,
    I am always dubious about these claims… but my radio is housed in the antenna base and powered by 12ft of USB cable. I had looked at installing an RF cable run like the 5 mile wireless unit you mention, but realized that I would loose 25-50% of my signal power through the RF cable. Maybe that is why they are claiming only 1000mW of power. Thanks for the input. If you have a chance check out the outdoor USB adapter and not the indoor unit.
    http://www.wifisignalking.com

  21. stephane says:

    Hi,
    I’m french, sorry for my english, no body is perfect. We are looking for a external wifi antenna for our laptop. But we are so far than state, we don’t want to do a mistake. Can you advice us for the best quality price on the market in state. here in europe we don’t find anythink. We try the rv by radio lab, friend american let us, but we didn’t have a better signal than our internal antenna of the laptop. May be she have a problem, we don’t know. But before to order we would like to have some advice and where to buy.
    Thank you

  22. Chris Ellingsen says:

    We have had excellent results with the Engenius 3220 unit.
    After seeing it reviewed here a friend bought a unit last spring. We have done quite extensive testing of it over the summer and are very pleased with the results. It only needs one connection, an ethernet cable with power included (PoE) which allows it to be located up to 100m away from your PC (eg. up your mast) without any signal loss. This is by far superior to any system that uses a long antenna cable since signal loss is a serious issue at 2.4GHz. USB cables also have a practical limitation of about 5m, limiting the flexibility of locating these units high up for increased coverage.

  23. michael needham says:

    Radio labs has great products, but however thier customer service is horrid. I have had an ongoing problem with them for months, be very cautious when ordering from them.

  24. Ross Biddle says:

    Customer service was horrible, unit leaked and failed even though it was kept under the dodger. The power is an ‘effective’ 400 mw and includes antenna gain… misleading. Apple compatability was advertised when I bought the unit but was only for the older power pc hardware and not Intel, when I raised the issue I got brushed off. (since rectified) The realtek usb stick which seemed to be the heart of the unit is very good and available for peanuts, I used one for a while with an 8db antenna and got the same results for one quarter of the price. Now I use both the Ultra Wap and Alfa units which are vastly superior.

  25. Peter Coupland says:

    I am having good results with an engenius 200mw
    USB adapter with a Digital brand 8foot wifi antenna.
    I am using about 8 feet of LMR400 coax.(just long enough to get the usb adapter to within 15feet of my notebook.

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