Internet at sea?
November 7, 2007 9:24 PM   Subscribe

Internet at Sea: What is the possibility of being able to upstream a live video from the middle of the ocean while on a boat? Costs, equipment, feasibility? A friend of mine is planning a sailing trip around the world and is considering lifecasting it. Any advice is appreciated.

Cost is a concern, but not if it is not overwhelmingly expensive. A few hundred a month plus equipment would not prohibit this from happening. Another thought is finding sponsorship from a company offering these services. Where do we start?
posted by BrodieShadeTree to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Iridium and Inmarsat are two ways to get data off the boat.

If your friend has a reputation as a blogger or a writer, sponsorship might be an option. Otherwise, good luck. Data over a satphone is both slow and expensive.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:38 PM on November 7, 2007

Just in case you're wondering, the companies that offer high speed internet to people who live on farms and suchlike are not able to help you.

The customer has a satellite dish, but it's just a receiver. The speed is fast but the latency is long. It's downlink only. For uplink, they use a slow speed telephone line with a (simplex?) modem.

So it cannot be used anywhere unless the person has regular telephone service, and it can't be used for uploads in any case, because that's what the telephone is used for.

Furthermore, they don't have global coverage. They're of no use whatever to your friend.

I agree that if your friend really means to do this, a satphone is the only choice, and he's going to need a lot of money to pay for the airtime.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:26 PM on November 7, 2007

Check out this series of articles on the Register, where they try out equipment for exactly this scenario. It's a little old, but may give you some insight.

They even did it for free, by writing about it - maybe your friend could go after some similar deal?
posted by the number 17 at 11:32 PM on November 7, 2007

Very expensive. Iridium, I gather, will get you a data rate of 10kbps at about $2/megabyte or so. Very expensive by landline standards; we're pretty spoiled these days.

I recommend spooling the lifelog to disk and uploading it whenever your friend puts in to port.
posted by hattifattener at 11:33 PM on November 7, 2007

(SCDB, that's only true of some services; not all the satellite internet services are one-way; some are bidirectional. VSAT satellite data, e.g., is bidirectional and has data rates that might be useful for this sort of thing. But I don't think it'd be useful at sea — the satellites have fixed footprints and probably require very carefully aimed dishes. But I could be wrong.)
posted by hattifattener at 11:45 PM on November 7, 2007

Bill is a friend of mine who travelled around the world uploading daily videos wherever he went. He spent a few weeks at least crossing an ocean or two, and still managed to get them up. It might be worth getting in touch with him for more details, or simply looking at his site for ideas.
posted by twirlypen at 11:56 PM on November 7, 2007

I work for a company that supports terrestrial and maritime satellite connections. Mostly data and VoiP. I don't have a price list but would estimate that the upfront cost of the hardware for a boat would be $10,000 to $20,000. You've got to have the sat modem as well as a self-pointing antenna. Service would likely start at about $500 per month. If your friend is looking to stream video I'd expect to pay more.
posted by ericales at 1:16 AM on November 8, 2007

I have some Texan cousins sailing around the world and they maintain a website. They do have internet on the boat, but it's 1200 baud - not quite fast enough to broadcast video.

You should have a talk with these guys, they're more likely to be able to help you than anyone else.
posted by PuGZ at 2:19 AM on November 8, 2007

Earlier this year I spent a while on a ship which had an always-on internet connection - 'satellite broadband', and that apparently cost £3k/month, although that may have included the cost of the equipment. I never tried uploading, but download speeds were equivalent to (not the fastest) terrestrial dialup. I don't think you'll get video for cheap.
posted by Lebannen at 3:59 AM on November 8, 2007

The customer has a satellite dish, but it's just a receiver. The speed is fast but the latency is long. It's downlink only. For uplink, they use a slow speed telephone line with a (simplex?) modem.

This is just plain wrong; satellite internet connections have been two-way for many years now.

This or this are designed for what you're trying to do -- it looks like they're basically the same thing as the home satellite dishes but with a motorized platform to keep them aimed correctly. But given that the ad copy describes them as for "yachts and commercial vessels," the pricing may be out of reach. :)
posted by ook at 8:32 AM on November 8, 2007

I've been researching land based satellite solutions recently, and found that Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) is pretty much what you'd want, it's fairly expensive - About £4.75 (GBP) for 1MB of data, but very fast with speeds of about 400kbs each way.

But it's the actual terminal that will cost a lot, land based manual pointing terminals are only a couple of grand (again, GBP - so ~$3000-$4000) so cheaper then the self tracking/pointing boat based versions (Which seem to be around $30,000), but the obvious problem is on a boat you're very much not sitting still - and I have no idea how flexible the manual versions would be - so even in calm waters they might not be able to get or keep hold of a good signal.
posted by paulfreeman at 8:39 AM on November 13, 2007

« Older I miss my monkey   |   Tabby Timeshare Help Needed Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.